Friday, June 14, 2024

How Will Africa Remember Tanzanian President John Magufuli


By Anthony Mukwita

About five years ago, the African media world was captivated by a new buzz word—What Would Magufuli do? or WWMD.

The phrase of course had been used before in reverence and reference to President Obama and even the Lord Jesus Christ, whenever, people hit a brick wall. Never before, however, had it been so used as a prefix for an African leader, as it did with President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, the fifth President of the United Republic of Tanzania after he assumed office in 2015.

Media prose from Cape to Cairo and Main Street to High street have today been awash with obituaries of the larger than life African leader, aptly nick-named the Bulldozer by Tanzania´s media due to his brashness and strong desire to get the job done against all odds.


Personally, I never knew or even met H.E Magufuli so my recollection of the dotted leader, as a keen documentarist of African contemporary history is limited to what I have read and first-hand information from those that knew him such as fellow envoys. Back home, our President H.E Edgar Lungu shared a personal and work relationship with his departed friend whom he nostalgically recalls for a generous donation he (H.E Magufuli) made to Zambia´s agriculture sector, in form of early maturing cashew nut seed variety that is uplifting the livelihoods of Zambians ´kwa hae´ in Western Province and putting money in peoples pockets.

In Tanzania, the list of his productive work in over just five years runs like a thread of gold starting from a high-speed rail, hydropower stations, expansion of the Mzee Julius Nyerere International Airport, a port at Dodoma and the revival of the once defunct Air Tanzania, even without local pilots. He will be nostalgically recalled for ´killing´ “Ghost workers” off government payroll that robbed Tanzania of scarce financial recourses that were later to be channelled towards building schools or sinking bore holes for clean water.


President Magufuli had a hate love relationship with the western media that likened him to a dictator and often chose to focus on allegations of covid-19 denier rather than his major economic scores that saw Tanzania´s economy race beyond 7pc annually when regional economies slowed down.
President Magufuli to me is a perfect example on why African writers and documentarists must step up to the plate and document their own African stories instead of leaving the task to the west.

If you have any doubt about this, google three or five main western news agencies on President Magufuli and other African obituaries.


President Magufuli is not painted in the good light that his people know him of but with a brush of impunity. I must know because I have written a book on a living President so that others such as John Smith or Andrew James do not distort what we know of our own story. We must control the narrative.

When Africa remembers President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, I reckon it is important to recall him as a reformist as referred by President Lungu and as “Pan Africanist” as referred to by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Tanzania.

No one leader is perfect but the challenge for African writers must be that of combining the “bitter with the sweet” in order to counter the mostly bitter west narrative because history is written by winners.

Survived by First Lady Janet, children Jessica and Joseph, President Magufuli who started off a career as a teacher and later obtained degrees in chemistry will be remembered for many different things by Tanzanians and beyond following his death at 61 only.


When uplifting African stories and songs are written, President Magufuli shall be in lots of lines of many songs and books. His demise while sad and devastating nevertheless has inadvertently paved way to Tanzania´s first female President H.E Samia Suluhu. Tanzania´s President Pombe shares a number of similarities with the President Lungu, starting from their staunch belief in Christianity, their female vice Presidents (VP Madam Inonge Mutukwa Wina) the frowning upon on same sex marriages and above all, the strong desire for regional economic integration.

President Magufuli and President Lungu of are credited for the establishment of the “One Stop Border Post” between Zambia and Tanzania, two countries that already share the Tanzania Zambia Railways or Tazara spearheaded by founding fathers Mzee Julius Nyerere and Dr Kenneth Kaunda. True pan Africanists to the core.

The US$6million modern border post at Nakonde in Zambia and Tunduma in Tanzania established in 2019 will boost the two countries economy, especially as Zambia gets linked to the port of Dar es Salaam via the same border. Lets not forget an oil pipeline between Tanzania and Uganda under the Magufuli thumb.


The death of President Magufuli has also seen a huge rise in google searches of Tanzania, with some people especially in the west discovering that Mount Kilimanjaro is in fact in Tanzania and not Kenya.

President Magufuli was born on 29th October 1959 in Chato village and studied science at the University of Dar es Salaam according to official records. I was going to write another chapter, then I asked myself, “what would Magufuli do?” The King is dead. Long live the King.

The Author is the Ambassador of Zambia to Germany and author of the best-selling book, “Against all Odds; President Edgar Chagwa Lungu´s Rough Journey to State House.” This personal essay is inspired by the life and work of the late President of Tanzania H.E John Pombe Magufuli.


  1. Africa will remember president Magufuli as areal African leader
    Who tried in these hard times to
    Make lives of his people better .
    He did put his people first before
    His own benefits. He could have
    Done the opposite if he so wished.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  2. Lungu is the most useless President we ever had. It’s shameful to even see this corrupt Chinese puppet in the same photo with the great so of Africa. Africa and its people will continue to suffer for as long as countries have puppet yet corrupt evil people like Lungu. Get rid of Lungu for Zambia to at least have a chance of existence. Otherwise say goodbye to our country and heritage.

  3. Lungu’s corruption and disregard for the constitution has crippled Zambia into a deep hole that it is unimaginable how we are going to get out of this. Magufuli transformed a once poorest country in the world to a middle class country in just 5 yrs. Lungu destroyed a third most thriving country after Rwanda and Ethiopia in just 6 yrs and this is the same zwati that still wants to continue to lead Zambia? What more distraction does he want to do for Zambia and it’s people? Folks, your lives depends on it, get rid of this clown and his bunch of thugs. Zambia cannot afford any more time of this corrupt evil criminal.

  4. Concerned!
    Having mentioned Nakonde border, I wonder what covid-19 guidelines are being observed given the different positions taken by the two governments. I was shocked at the lack of short distancing, masks etc among mourns gathered at Magufuli’s funeral. The men in uniform went on with their activities in a very risky manner. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the funeral turns into a merger spreader of covid-19.

  5. In typical colonised style as Mukwita mentions above, diasporan dingbats will come out attacking ECL. Magufuli is being credited with building rails, power stations, a strong mining policy, what did Levy Mwanawasa leave behind???

  6. President Magufuli is dead and a smooth and peaceful transfer of Power has taken place. Tanzanians have shown the World and Africa in Particular how Succession is handled legally and constitutionally. Now President Samia Hassan is President of Tanzania. Leaders of Tanzania have made Africa Proud for transferring Power Peacefully and Constitutionally. ECL should emulate the Tanzanians and ensure that in August 2021 he smoothly and peacefully handover Power to whoever will be elected President of Zambia on August 12,2021. Having held office, elected and sworn in twice ECL should be ready to retire from Politics and allow the Country to move forward in peace without him at the helm. Just like we have seen in Tanzania, Zambians demand a Credible Election in 2021 and a smooth and peaceful…

  7. The topic is the late president of Tanzania and not the president of Zambia. Those of you who hates ECL don’t think we all hate him. Please by all means use the right channel to remove him if you wish him out of power otherwise you will only have wishful thinking which will end in wishing what will not come pass. Lungu has followers who just love him the way you also love other opposition leaders. Let us use 12 August 2021 to prove if what you say about him will motivate people to vote against him. We are all created by One Almighty God. And those happy with ECL will stand by his side even though who don’t benefit anything from the current government directly but benefits indirectly like everyone else.

  8. He will remembered that he was sick with COVID-19 and cut his life short because he denied the existance of the deadly virus

  9. His treatment of the opposition was something he’ll be remembered for.Everyone has conveniently forgotten that the person who first announced to the world that Magufuli wasn’t well is the man who was shot 17 times in Magufulis Tanzania and was forced into exile by his endless persecution..a great man …maybe..

  10. When I complain about this habit and love of using luxury SUVs by senior govt officers look at our elder brother the wise leader Magufuli and his hard stance on this expensive habit which us in Zambia have failed to realise.Tanzania saved millions of dollars because they did away with luxury SUVs, yet our govt here in Zambia spends millons of dollars of hiluxs, Gxs etc and our roads remain in a terrible state. Logic, common sense says use that money for roads instead of expensive cars meant only for a handful of privileged top govt officers, but common sense is always pushed aside by personal greed and shortsightedness.


  12. Don’t compare ECL to Magufuli. The two are hundreds and hundreds of miles apart in terms of character and performance

  13. I don’t really know what type of writing this is, it’s a mambo-jumbo of some form of writing. I could be wrong, but someone please enlighten me – what is this form of writing called.

  14. Like all leaders he enjoyed both love and hate by his citizenry, he like any living soul had his good and bad days so was his decision making and for love or hate earned himself the nickname “Bulldozer.” All in all he’s left a legacy that will be attached to visible infrastructure development and love of the common Tanzanians! The downside is his denial of Covid 19 anyway MHSRIP after all he was only human!

  15. Tanzania’s debt – $6 billion.
    With little borrowing, Magufuli transformed Tanzania in just 5 years. Grew the economy at about 7%. Left the treasury better than when he found it.
    Where is Zambia?

  16. Magufuli ignored Covid and never used it as an excuse for poor performance. He just worked. Cut down on government expenditure. Restarted Tanzania airline without external help. Clamped down on corruption and waste.

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