Charismatic former Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete stepped aside after 10 years at the helm of the
$50 billion economy.
The October 25, 2015 elections ushered in a new leader who had promised to weed out corruption. True to his word, John Pombe Magufuli has wasted no time and introduced a swathe of austerity cuts and crackdowns on public corruption which has earned him plaudits, both within Tanzania and across the African continent.
The new president has demonstrated understanding that wastage of public money on foreign junkets is the height of stupidity and impunity. We, as Zimbabweans cannot help, but marvel at a humble and principled leader who knows where his priorities lie.
Unlike our fellow 71-year-old brother in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who has said he needs more time to develop the country as he looks to enter a fourth decade in power and is standing to be elected into the highest office once again in the presidential and parliamentary elections slated for February 18 2016, Magufuli signalled the end of business as usual on his first day in office. He made an unannounced visit to the Finance ministry where he rebuked civil servants who have a tendency of “leaving jackets at their chairs”. Lavish independence celebrations and State banquets have been cancelled with funds being channelled to fight a cholera outbreak and purchasing of hospital beds and linen. The need came after another surprise visit — which seems a favourite modus operandi of the new administration — to the main State hospital where he stumbled upon patients sleeping on the floor. This earned the hospital chief and the governing body a sack.
Africa’s model leader has cancelled non-essential foreign travel and instructed embassies to take care of business (foreign meetings). Where necessary, special authority to travel will be granted by the chief secretary. Workshops and seminars in expensive hotels with so many ministry board rooms available have been banned and expensive lunches during meetings cut.
Engineers in Tanzania have been shown their most suitable cars for their jobs, pick-ups and not the gasoline hungry V8s. For failing to deal with wide-spread corruption which does not need rocket scientists to discover, the director-general of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, Edward Hoseah, was mercilessly shown the exit door. The country, with a population of approximately 50 million people, is now being run by 19 cabinet ministers after Magufuli merged some of the ministries in line with his cost-cutting philosophy. It is 11 ministries less compared to the last government.
The new president has managed to drastically reduce government expenditure and humbled himself as a people-person ululated around Africa. One author wrote that Magufuli has literally pressed the reset button; returning Tanzania to default factory settings — governance wise, where Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere left it on retirement in 1985.
Africa, tired of endemic corruption, incompetence, nepotism and other vices where well-to-do perpetrators get away with impunity is yearning for such new brooms. One such new broom is Uhuru Kenyatta who has so far added $15bn to the economy of Kenya in less than three years and is attracting foreign direct investment from all over, striking key bilateral ties with economic powerhouses and tycoons.
It’s not a matter of inadequate resources or other constraints (or sanctions mantra) we hear every day, it’s a matter of will.
When Magufuli ordered that all machines that weren’t working during his visit to the main hospital (so that people go to private hospitals owned by some doctors) to be repaired within two weeks otherwise he would fire even the new director; the machines were repaired in three days. Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) surpassed revenue collection target for the month of December and Kikwete congratulated Magufuli for having managed to “Magufulify” the revenue authority. We await to see Magufuli tackle the deeper structural issues that have allowed corruption to thrive for so long. This is a far more daunting task.
“The pervasiveness of corruption in our countries … is robbing our youth of their rightful inheritance. Corruption is insidious and corrosive, and the damage that it wreaks today will be felt well into the future by those who had no part in it, or at least are relatively free from blame,” writes Corruption Watch board chairperson, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, in the organisation’s 2014 annual report. If fellow African leaders do not take a leaf from Magufuli, they will soon become mere footnotes in future history books. It’s time to “Magufulify” Africa.