President John Pombe Magufuli has demonstrated surprisingly dynamic leadership in the three months he has been in power, but analysts say even ‘The Bulldozer’ can’t run Tanzania on his own
RIGHT from President John Magufuli’s second day in office when he made that impromptu visit to the finance ministry – on foot – Tanzanians realised they now had a totally different type of leader at Ikulu after the relatively laid-back style of his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete.
Magufuli’s reputation as a man who likes to get things done drew more cheers just three days later, when he paid another surprise visit to the country’s biggest referral hospital, Muhimbili, swiftly sacking the hospital’s chief executive and dissolving its board of directors after finding appalling patient treatment conditions at the public institution.
Barely two weeks went by, before ‘The Bulldozer’ (a nickname coined for him by ex-president Kikwete) struck yet again. This time he suspended the Commissioner General of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Rished Bade, and other senior tax officials following revelations that hundreds of shipping containers had been cleared from inland container depots (ICDs) in Dar es Salaam without the relevant taxes being paid.
He wasn’t finished – not by a long shot. In that whirlwind first five weeks or so of his tenure, Magufuli also disbanded the board of directors of the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), sacking its chairman Prof Joseph Msambichaka, and summarily dismissed the TPA director general Awadhi Massawe (whom Kikwete had appointed to the post in his last days in office).
Several other chief executives of under-performing parastatals and other state-run departments were also (and continue to be) either sacked or suspended pending the outcome of corruption allegations against them. And apart from cracking down with little mercy on corruption, the new president also wasted no time in introducing a series of quite unique measures to cut out wasteful government excess spending, including imposing an indefinite ban on unjustifiable foreign trips by public officials.
Soon, debate started swirling around as to whether or not the country even needed to have a cabinet of ministers at all, what with Magufuli and his trusted lieutenant, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, appearing to be comfortably running the show all by themselves from within the confines of State House and the nearby PM’s office.
It wasn’t until 36 days had passed since his November 5 inauguration that Magufuli finally named his trimmed-down cabinet of just 18 ministries – compared to 30 in the previous Kikwete administration.
And so as Magufuli marks his first 100 days in power today, it can be said to go without saying that his style of no-nonsense, results-oriented leadership has won him droves of supporters across Tanzania and beyond the country’s borders. Add to this the fact that he has yet to make a single trip outside the country in his capacity as head of state – opting instead to divert his immediate attentions to addressing the myriad of presidential challenges on the domestic front.
And there you have the enigmatic man in a nutshell, so to speak.
Nevertheless, he also has his critics. Although most Tanzanians have been yearning for a ‘tough president’ to fix the country, some leading opposition leaders in the country say the Magufuli administration has already displayed some authoritarian tendencies, pointing to the banning of a weekly tabloid, halting of live television broadcasts of full parliamentary sessions, and demolitions of illegally-built houses countrywide.
Some analysts have also warned that despite his clearly dynamic, lead-by-example personality, Magufuli could struggle to accomplish his plans over the next five years if the rest of his government – namely the officials within – do not stay on the same wavelength.
Here’s what some prominent local personalities had to say about the performance of President Magufuli and his government thus far:
SALIM AHMED SALIM
The former prime minister applauded Magufuli for his “sterling performance” so far, particularly in government revenue collection, cost-cutting measures and public investment in social service sectors such as health and education.
Salim called on all Tanzanians to support the president in his important yet tough crusade against corruption, abuse of power, embezzlement, larceny of public funds and negligence.
“We must all rally behind the president … we shouldn’t abandon him in the fight against these cancers that have been destroying our country. It is very encouraging to see the head of state being so committed as he has demonstrated,” Salim said.
Another former premier, Judge (rtd) Warioba noted that Magufuli’s lean ministerial cabinet was meant not only to cut costs, but also to have a team which could actually help him in the country’s transformation process.
“The cabinet is the highest presidential advisory organ. The smaller it is, the more efficient it becomes…so he did well to make it smaller compared to the previous ones,” Judge Warioba said.
Like Salim, he urged Tanzanians to support the president in fighting corruption and misuse of power as root problems affecting the country’s development for a long time.
“President Magufuli has set the tone and I believe that in future this country’s leaders will abide by such leadership ethics as he has demonstrated,” Warioba said.
JOHN SAMUEL MALECELA
According to Malecela, also a former prime minister, President Magufuli has everything to be proud of in his first hundred days in office, citing his actions against corruption and the misappropriation of government money.
“It is worth emulating what the new government is doing because from the start the president has shown the way as a leader,” Malecela remarked. He said the president’s no-nonsense style of leadership helped to put Tanzania ahead of other countries in the region in terms of effective governance.
“A good start towards a better Tanzania,” was how veteran politician and former ambassador Lusinde described Magufuli’s tenure in office so far.
He said the current president’s words and deeds clearly demonstrate that the poverty eradication agenda was very close to his heart and he was prepared to work hard to fulfill all pledges he made to Tanzanians during last year’s election campaign.
“When you have a leader who is ready to stand on the front line when dealing with social matters like cleaning up the environment, among others, this gives his subordinates a challenge to follow suit lest they get kicked out of their jobs,” Lusinde noted.
A former spy chief and also once a cabinet minister, Dr. Kitine said so far Magufuli’s was a job well done.
“He has been very determined to change the business-as-usual way of doing things in government, and this will eventually improve the lives of many Tanzanians,” Kitine added.
PROF. IBRAHIM LIPUMBA
The former chairman of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) said he was impressed by the president’s determination to fight corruption and government excess. But he also expressed concern over what he described as a muted commitment to good governance, rule of law and democracy.
“I really support the thrust that we should control foreign travel by public officials, but it should not be in terms of micro management,” Prof Lipumba said. “Permission for foreign travel for civil servants should be granted at the level of ministers or boards of directors of public entities. Such permission should not be centralized in the president’s office,” he added.
He also questioned how the now-famous slogan ‘Hapa Kazi Tu’ was being used to push people to actually work with little consideration of the need to follow procedures and show respect for human rights and the rule of law.
“Democratic processes are seen as a hindrance to development, and authoritarian leadership is used to get things done. This is not right, there must be respect for human rights,” stated the ex-CUF chief.
AMBASSADOR JUMA MWAPACHU
The former secretary general of the East African Community (EAC) said in a statement that coincided with Magufuli’s first 100 days in office that Tanzania still faces many challenges ahead.
“Overall, with oil and gas companies having frozen operations in Tanzania due to the low oil prices in the global market and China’s economy getting into doldrums and affecting prices of metals, Tanzania faces tumultuous times,” Ambassador Mwapachu said.
“I am not sure if our policy makers are well seized of all these conditions and opening up to domestic economic players for serious consultative conversations. They should do so in order to chart out responsive policies and measures within the regulatory, fiscal and monetary spaces,” he added.