Valedictory Note To Tanzania’s Magufuli Who Lifted His Country To Middle Income

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Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta views body of President Magufuli. Photo: Facebook.

[My Free Thoughts]

A no nonsense great African president, John Pompe Magufuli, paddled on far to the great beyond on Thursday March 18, 2021 after succumbing to cardiac arrest and heart failure. He’d battled heart-related disease since his youthful years while at the University of Dar es Salaam.

Magufuli was serving his second and last term in office having risen to power in 2015 when President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete’s term of office expired. Magufuli contested under Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) political party and won the election with a landslide. Prior to ascending to the presidency, Magufuli had served Tanzania as a cabinet minister since 1995.

Magufuli, right from the day he became president of Tanzania in 2015, demonstrated to many of the African misleaders out there, the humility and focus that has been lacking in them. His practical anti-corruption methods, anti-waste measures, anti-neocolonialism, all worked like never before in Tanzania. Magufuli’s approach earned him admiration from the entire African continent which is mostly defined by kleptocratic gerontocracies, such as the ones in Uganda and Cameroon, under the dictators Gen. Yoweri Museveni and Paul Biya, respectively. 

Though death has robbed Magufuli the chance to complete his presidential term of 10-years in office, the “bulldozer” as he was known as, achieved a lot which most African presidents—especially those who have overstayed their welcome—failed to accomplish in decades, especially those clinging on to power.

Firstly, upon swearing in as president of the United Republic of Tanzania, his first intolerance was against corruption. Magufuli waged a war against the vice of swindling public funds and vowed that for any public servant to steal money from the government, they were better off taking poison and dying. He greatly reduced theft and corruption.

Secondly, on the incompetent civil servants and those who malingered at work, about 20,000 were shown the exit including 13 cabinet ministers. He was called the bulldozer because he ensured effective service delivery for all Tanzanians by firing those who would sabotage his mission.

When Magufuli came into office, electricity and water systems did not cover more than 30% of the country but after five years in power, 90% of the country was covered with an effective water supply and electricity system. 

The World Bank in 2020, declared Tanzania a middle income country, Magufuli’s goal was to reach this target by 2025.

He was human and the deceased president also leaves a legacy of pain and suffering, especially to his political adversaries especially and in the media. Magufuli  hampered freedom of expression and he would not stomach criticism from those who denounced his policies as harsh and autocratic. Many people were arrested and charged during his tenure as a first citizen. This tainted him as a dictator who abhorred criticism from the sheep.

Tanzanians have come out in overwhelming numbers to show love for their departed president. Even his critics knew he would have been term-limited in five years. Contrast that with Uganda’s widely despised dictator Gen. Museveni who has been in power for 35 years. The dictator complained about African leaders not being able to even manufacture a needle. Decades later, he has become another failure. 

Not so in Tanzania. So, Kwaheri John Pombe Magufuli.

The columnist who was a victim of torture at the hands of the Museveni dictatorship can be reached at kakwenzarukirabashaija@gmail.com 

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