THE Tanzania of October 2015 and that of November 2020 are two different countries. And, it is hard to believe that so much change could occur in such a short period.
Though many details still need to be established, one can already pinpoint key factors that led to the transformation of east Africa’s largest country. It is President John Magufuli, better known as “The bulldozer” for his swift directives and austerity measures.
When Dr John Pombe Magufuli arrived at the Magogoni-based State House as the fifth-phase president and commander-in-chief of the defence forces, five years ago, he met a worse-scale of corruption, a surge in youth unemployment, an almost collapsed education system and a political hernia that threatened to bring down the decades-long union with the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar.
The Bulldozer won the 2015 general election with 58 per cent of the vote against 40 per cent of his then main competitor, Edward Lowassa while in the 2020 election; the reformist leader garnered 84.4 per cent against 13 per cent of Chadema’s Tundu Lissu.
Although 2015’s victory had been slim as compared to his predecessors of the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Magufuli, quickly gained popularity more than his most recent predecessors managed in a lifetime. And, this popularity is what made him post a historic win in this year’s polls.
Perhaps, the question is, what did Magufuli do? Analysts and observers have all rushed to ask about how the Tanzania storyline changed so dramatically, but all certainly acknowledge the importance of leadership in changing the country’s trajectory.
Magufuli swept into the high land office on a popular anti-corruption platform. His engagement in a major house-cleaning exercise went beyond showing exit doors, when he locked-up hundreds of civil servants for their involvement in corruption.
A survey by Afrobarometer in 2014 indicated 13 per cent of Tanzanians believed corruption was on decline. A similar survey, conducted three years later revealed that 70 per cent of Tanzanians saw corruption had decreased a lot.
Nevertheless, the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report published early this year ranked Tanzania at 96th among 180 countries having climbed from the bottom of the chart scored between 2012 and 2015.
“The Tanzanian government under the presidency of John Magufuli has cracked down heavily on corruption,” noted part of the report. It said, despite the current anti-corruption campaigns, political, petty and grand corruption seems to be endemic in the country.
A Pan-Africanist Prof Patrick Lumumba had described Magufuli’s administration move as “expected to pose a huge political risk.” He categorically, expatiated that the leader must tackle corruption head-on regardless the people involved.
He said Tanzanians had enough of corruption, but with concerns that come along the decisions, it would be worth it for the nation, and African countries should learn to firmly fight corruption.
Magufuli’s administration proved to be immensely popular after taking on heavyweight leaders and businessmen who made Tanzanians suffer under the yoke of corruption for many years. The gap between the wealthy and poor has also sharply declined resonating from his political campaign to create a standardized level of living.
“Everyone must benefit from a legitimate source of income,” President Magufuli said. “There are people who have been living like angels, we shall bring them down.”
Magufuli’s actions had displayed his not ordinary but a different kind of leader — someone who understood that the role of the president is to make sacrifices for the people rather than the other way round.