AP Photo/Khalfan Said
John Pombe Magufuli earned a doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Dar es Salaam in 2009 and five years later became president of Tanzania. He has since impressed many, including his former critics with his hands on leadership style in the East African nation.
“I will fight corruption without fear or favor; I will personally lead the charge…pray for me and support me in this war because those involved are not the ordinary people.” Mr. Magufuli said in his inaugural speech.
The 56-year-old, who came to power on a ticket of eliminating corruption, has wasted little time on cracking down public graft, a move that has earned him applause as Africa’s model leader across the continent. People in neighboring countries continue to marvel at his leadership style and many wish that their own leaders could borrow a leaf from Magufuli.
Famously known as “The bulldozer”, on becoming president, Magufuli’s first day in office signaled end of business as usual. He immediately started cracking down on unnecessary government expenditure which saw the country’s annual independence bash cancelled as wastage of public resources. The funds were channeled to the health sector for purchasing hospital beds at the state hospital.
“I will not triumph in economic growth statistics that do not reflect on the day to day lives of ordinary citizens,” says Dr Magufuli who becomes the fifth president of Tanzania after succeeding Mr. Jakaya Kikwete
Magufuli won Tanzania’s hardest ever fought elections. For the first time, the opposition provided credible challenge to the ruling revolutionary Party Chama Cha Mapinduzi CCM since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1995. His party, CCM won 58 percent of votes — a total of 8.9 million — compared to his closest rival Edward Lowassa, a former prime minister and CCM stalwart turned opposition chief who won 40 percent.
Still in line with his cost cutting philosophy, Magufuli called off unnecessary foreign travel by government officials and instructed embassies to deal with foreign meetings and businesses. Foreign trips cost the country a staggering sh356.3billion in air tickets and allowances alone between 2013 and 2015.
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. It is 11 ministries less compared to the last government.
Conducting workshops in expensive hotels with so many ministry board rooms available has been banned and expensive lunches during meetings cut. Indeed, true to his word Magufuli has succeeded in drastically reducing government expenditure which has earned him admiration across the continent especially from the countries that continue to yearn for such new brooms.
Magufuli’s government is however yet to show commitment and decisive approach to unlocking the vast potential of Tanzania’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) reserves that have the potential to tackle the endless power shortages Tanzanians face and transform the country to a gas giant. Estimates suggest that Tanzania has some 55 trillion cubic feet of offshore gas reserves
Managing relationships with major oil-and-gas companies operating in Tanzania, such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil, Norways State oil and Ophir Energy also, remains a key challenge for Mr. Magufuli. He campaigned on populist promises of giving bigger stakes for the citizens in the upcoming natural gas boom. But this would likely require renegotiation of the exploration contracts, which may rattle the investors the wrong way.
One of the thorniest areas for the Magufuli government however, remains the political crisis in Zanzibar that continues to pose risks to governance and stability. The Indian Ocean archipelago and self-governing territory annulled the polls held in October on ground that the presidential candidate, Sheif Sheriff of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) won the presidential elections.
Talks between the government and the CUF on how to resolve the question have yielded nothing as the positions of the parties are all but irreconcilable.
François Conradie an analyst with NKC Africa Economics has voiced concerns that the continued uncertainty may damage tourism, the main stay of the archipelago.
“How long trouble lasts will depend on whether the CUF agrees to participate in the election. CUF president Sheif Sheriff Hamad has said that he will not, and if he sticks to that position then the atmosphere could remain tense for some time.” Said Conradie in a note this month.
The draft new constitution proposed by the Constituent Assembly in October last year preserves the existing two-government union structure, with a Union government for the mainland and Zanzibar and a separate government of Zanzibar.
If the tensions with Zanzibar linger, they will pose Mr.Magufuli with an early test for his leadership which could determine the future of the nearly century old union government.