What has Tanzania’s Magufuli done during his year in office?

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Tanzania's President elect John Pombe Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party's sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015. Tanzania's ruling party candidate, John Magufuli, was declared winner on Thursday of a presidential election, after the national electoral body dismissed opposition complaints about the process and a demand for a recount. The election has been the most hotly contested race in the more than half a century of rule by the Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party, which fielded Magufuli, 56, a minister for public works. REUTERS/Sadi Said - RTX1TYDQ

On John Magufuli’s first day as Tanzania’s president, a year ago tomorrow, he created a storm on social media by making an unannounced visit to the finance ministry, catching the workers off-guard. But what else has he achieved in his first year? The BBC’s Dickens Olewe looks at his highs and lows.

What would Magufuli do?

During that visit to the finance ministry, he reportedly asked after those who were not at their desks – a subtle message that he would not tolerate the legendary absenteeism of government workers.

He said he was keen to ensure that the government would have enough money to fund its election promises.

Surprise visits of government offices have become a trademark, meant to project his looming presence and to instil discipline and accountability.

But perhaps his most effective stunt yet was leading the country in cleaning the streets on independence day, 9 December.

He had already announced the cancellation of the planned lavish celebrations, with the allocated funds going to cover expenses in public hospitals.

TweetImage copyrightTWITTER

This act boosted his reputation among East Africans, inspiring a hashtag on Twitter; #WhatWouldMagufuliDo which was widely used in neighbouring countries.

Although the hashtag was mostly used to mock Mr Magufuli’s austere policies, it unwittingly defined his leadership style, which many have come to admire.

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man sits in fake carImage copyright@WASIKEABDU
picture of a pot suspended over a candleImage copyright@KYALO

Approval rating

Despite winning early admirers, many doubted that he would maintain his hands-on strategy, but so far he seems to have dumbfounded his critics.

He continues to attract admiration for following through his campaign promises to change “business as usual” in Tanzania. A recent poll says he has a 96% approval rating.

“There is no doubt that President Magufuli is very popular among many ordinary Tanzanians,” political analyst Kitila Mumbo told the BBC.

“But many are also keen to see him provide civic space for freedom of expression and political gatherings and rallies which his government banned a couple of months ago.”


Magufuli effect

Weeks after he assumed office, government officials seem to be following his cue.

A top local official, probably wanting to impress, ordered the police to lock up workers who had arrived late for a meeting.

The move was criticised by human rights groups who said that employment laws should be followed.

The BBC’s Sammy Awami in Dar es Salaam says that the attitude of government workers has changed since Mr Magufuli came to office:

“They are now more willing to do their jobs and are afraid of engaging in corruption. People are experiencing better services in hospitals and schools,” he says.

The president’s main promise of extending free education to secondary school, which came into effect in January, has also been well received, our correspondent adds.


Ghost slayer

In May, an audit ordered by Mr Magufuli revealed that there were some 10,000 “ghost workers” on the public sector payroll.

Payments to the non-existent employees had been costing the government more than $2m (£1.4m) a month, according to the prime minister’s office.

Such revelations continue to magnify the challenges the country faces and his actions endear him to Tanzanians.


Example to Kenya

A recent example of his popularity came during a visit to neighbouring Kenya earlier this week, only his third foreign trip since he came to office.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterpart John MagufuliImage copyrightAFP
Image captionKenyans are calling on their president to get tips for fighting corruption from Magufuli

His visit coincided with news of an alleged corruption scandal that has rocked President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

Kenya’s top cartoonist Gaddo depicted state officials, who had gone to receive Mr Magufuli at the airport, dashing off as he emerged from the plane holding a whip.

His image as a corruption fighter has captivated Kenyans who suggested that Mr Kenyatta’s government should get tips from him:

TweetImage copyrightTWITTER
TweetImage copyrightTWITTER

However, it has not been all rosy for Mr Magufuli.


Another African dictator?

Gaddo recently caricatured African leaders, perceived to be dictators, in several categories.

He listed Mr Magufuli as a petty dictator, saying that his government’s actions to shut down the media and intimidate opposition parties shows that he’s “an aspiring dictator”.

A woman walks past an election poster for John MagufuliImage copyrightAFP
Image captionCritics say that he has reduced civic space for freedom of expression

At least 10 people have been charged for “insulting” Mr Magufuli on social media platforms, leading to criticism from human rights organisations.

His popularity seems to be the antithesis of what US President Barack Obama famously called for as a solution to the continent’s political problems during his inaugural visit to Africa in 2009: “Strong institutions instead of strongmen”.

Mr Mumbo told the BBC that despite Mr Magufuli’s popularity, many Tanzanians also want to see an “open-democratic space”.

In June, opposition parties criticised his government for banning live broadcasts of parliament sessions and street protests.


Attack on freedom of expression

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US aid agency, cancelled nearly $500m (£405m) of funding in March partly on concerns over the enforcement of a cyber crimes law which they say limits freedom of expression.

MCC also expressed concern about the election in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar which it said was “neither inclusive nor representative”.

The October election for president of the semi-autonomous archipelago was cancelled half-way through the count.

The opposition Civic United Front (CUF) said the annulment was because it had won, but the electoral commission said there had been widespread fraud.

The information ministry has also banned two radio stations for allegations of “sedition” and a weekly newspaper for “defaming” Mr Magufuli.

It seems these concerns have not shadowed what many consider as his attributes.

©Alleastafrica and BBC

1 COMMENT

  1. Dear Moderator, Alleastafrica.com
    The following Article is based on my sincere opinion and care for our Africa. It was written well before I read the above fantastic Article [re: “What has Tanzania’s Magufuli done during his year in office?”]. I thought (I hope) my article would fit well in “broad context”. If you find the writing to be within the discipline and norms of publication of Alleastafrican.com, I would be happy to see it thereon. If not, I accept your editorial judgment and publication norms. Either way, THANK YOU for the service that you are rendering.

    The Fate of Africa
    There are fifty-four (54) sovereign States in Africa. All, except Morocco, are members of the African Union [re: Google]. In my opinion (as a typical regular readership) the terms “sovereignty” and “African Union” as constituted are meaningless.
    The African Union is equivalent to the European Union!!! – I rushed to add: only in concept, please! Perhaps some intellectuals of deep knowledge would one day explain in writing the accomplishments (if any) of the African Union in its given TERMS of REFERENCE – for the benefit of Africa. As things stand, AFRICA would age to death before the Union gets anything done and render the concept of “sovereignty’ null and void.
    What have the good innocent people of Africa benefited from the service of the African Union since it inception? Would non-existence of the African Union have made any difference to the good people of Africa? And why were the supremely educated African intellectuals failed to get together and come up with a study to rescue their people, but instead they still continue to do nothing — oblivious of any sense of urgency and guilt?
    Is there a single State in Africa known for its NOTABLE accomplishment in socioeconomics and political institutions, resembling a tangible inclination to developments? If the answer is NO; then the question is WHY? The question is glaringly gnawing directly at its modern educated African sons and daughters, graduate of Ivy League Western Universities around the Globe. Why can’t they get together? Why can’t their consciousness urge them to get together and come to the recue of their beloved African societies?
    We know why? Don’t we, Dear Intellectuals? Go back to the fundamental of years gone by and ponder, review and understand the application of the so-called ‘modern’ education to the African Child >>> that was YOU and still haunts you – at least, it should! In the process, YOU may wish to review a parallel world history with respect to ‘modern’ education that was applied to other indigenous brave and deeply honest people which sadly resulted in total dysfunctionality. Why? In short, glaring historical crime was purported by invaders from other continent for ‘space’ and ‘richness’, ‘liquidating’ the indigenous inhabitants that they found on their way to the greatest crime that has ever purported in human history. Hundred of years later, meaningless apology came forward (for historical books) for the perpetrated crime committed by their ancestors. Alas, it is all meaningless as far as the poor and dysfunctional remnants of the ancient indigenous proud people are concerned.
    Let us turn the page of history to Africa. At a consequential risk for being daring (even in the tooted environment of freedom of ideas and expression) the following question can be asked: would it be far fetched to conjure that the African Race would also meet, in the realm of futurism, the same fate as the indigenous Race described above. Perhaps it is exaggerated; nevertheless, the DIRECTION to that eventuality is clear, in varied shapes and forms.
    Dear AFRICAN Intellectuals. Would history nudge you to wake up; to get together; and to come to the rescue of your beloved Africa – ‘Today’ NOT ‘Tomorrow’? It only requires fifty-four (54) dedicated individuals of the highest educational level to start the wheel. Is it impossible for African Scholars of the highest order to mind the business of Africa? If the answer is confidently NO, then as the African adage of wisdom goes >>> “well, here is the horse; and here is the open vast field”. THE END

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