Posted on May 26, 2016
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… New President making waves
If you are visiting Tanzania, mention the name Julius Nyerere to an older local folk and you may be surprised by the awe and reverence that this name still conjures in the hearts of the people of Tanzania thirty years on. Mwalimu “teacher” or Baba wa Taifa – “father of the Tanzanian nation”, as he is fondly known, led an austere life and presided over an ascetic mode of government.
Thirty years later, and after a number of less than inspiring Presidents, another political leader has appeared on the Tanzanian political horizon with a similar-looking decisive and austere approach. John Magufuli, Tanzania’s new leader, sworn-in as President on 5 November 2015 is certainly making waves, not only in Tanzania but across the entire African continent.
In just six months a lot has changed in Tanzania. A country which was last year ranked 117 out of 168 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is now on a path of change to a fairer society and the new president’s leadership style has played a huge role in that.
Since coming into power, Magufuli nicknamed “the bulldozer” has made a number of moves to save on unnecessary expenses and instead put them to a more positive use elsewhere in the economy. For example last December he cancelled Independence Day celebrations and instead used the money saved to contribute to country-wide clean-up campaigns.
“It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera”
(President’s statement read on state television)
At the opening of the Tanzanian parliament, he cut back the lavish state dinner planned and slashed the budget by 90 percent, and instead ordered that the funds saved be used to pay for more hospital beds at the Muhimbili National Hospital in the capital. They got 300 beds and mattresses and 600 bed sheets from that money. He has also banned all non-essential foreign trips for ministers, and where necessary flights may only be booked in economy class. The man himself travelled all the way to an official visit to Rwanda by car, so as to save on flight costs. November 2015, a group of 50 civil servants were about to set off for a commonwealth event, but President Magulufi cut that list down to 4 people, saving government 600 Million Shillings (£0.2M) in tickets, accommodation and allowances..
Many roads in Tanzania – particularly in rural areas – are inaccessible during heavy rainfalls, turning the roads into a mudslide. This makes journeys laborious and often nigh on impossible, affecting trade and also demotivating investors in the impacted areas. In April the President cancelled Union Day celebrations in the country, saying one million U.S. dollars could be saved for road projects. The president said the money would be used to expand a stretch of road in Mwanza, a city on the shores of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania, to ease traffic jams between the airport and city centre. The money had been earmarked to buy food, drinks and pay allowances to those who will be involved in the celebrations including parades and mass plays.
It is clear that Magufuli is a president who wants to live within his country’s means. He sees no need for frivolous spending on unnecessary things – a behaviour he has demonstrated since day one. And it’s not just on wasteful spending that Magufuli is taking action; he is now battling against government corruption. Since coming into power he has sacked a number of corrupt ministers and government officials, including the director generals of the Tanzania Ports Authority and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau. The president has also promised to take Tanzania back to the days of high quality healthcare and education.
Are we at the dawn of a golden era in Tanzania and Africa? Perhaps! Magufuli’s leadership is certainly a step in the right direction. We hope other African leaders will take heed, and unleash the potential that the continent has and to using its resources for the good of
the people, rather than for just the select powerful few.
ACT has been working in Tanzania since 2003 and present in Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Kagera regions. Read more about ACT’s work in Tanzania.
For more information on how to donate to ACT – read here!