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Life Reflections

He came, he worked, he went

By March 27, 2021June 6th, 2023No Comments

March 26, 2021

The moment “The Bulldozer” – Magufuli’s nickname for his hard work – became president, he hit the ground, burrowed into its leadership mire and twisted up everything like a tropical cyclone.

The accepted laid-back way of working, absenteeism, ghost-salary-earning, sloth, the canker of corruption and embezzlement, plus other vices, ‘The Bulldozer/Cyclone’ sent them all into a spiralling pointed-rock that hung over Tanzania like a giant sword.

The perform-or-perish tremor touched off was felt within the country as it was, without.

Cynics in Africa and beyond dismissed his ways as a lot of bombast and blaster. They’d seen it with the likes of Idi Amin and some initially credible revolutionaries, especially with a military background, who promised fundamental changes that would birth a better future, only for their momentum to peter out and many times sink their rule into worse rot.

However, optimists who believe in the eventual rise of Africa rejoiced in the arrival on the scene of a man marked by a sense of urgency in the service of his people. It was refreshing to have a man committed to positive action far removed from the sort who hunger for foreign favours at the expense of national, regional and continental progress.

These are the sort that work solely for self-preservation where their people’s strife festers under their noses. Be they inter-tribal, -regional, -religious infightings or poverty, disease and squalor, these quislings are too busy licking foreigners’ boots to address them.

In Africa that’s peppered with such self-seeking leaderships, Magufuli was a breath of fresh air.

With his avowed “Hapa Kazi Tu!” that’d be transliterated to “Men/Women At Work Here!”, he buried himself into his task with the impatience of a man who had for long borne testimony to leaderships that did not apply themselves to their fullest potential.

His country needed to move. And fast. Magufuli, the veritable workhorse, stepped on the gas.

He oversaw the retrenchment of civil servants with fake papers, the removal from the payroll of thousands of ghost workers, prompt salary payment to public service workers, the clearance of old-file caseloads in courts and the reduction in the incidence of graft. He saw to it that Tanzanians enjoyed permanent sovereignty over their country’s natural resources.

Education in primary and secondary schools was provided free. Electricity saw great expansion as did access to clean water. To the existing number of healthcare facilities were added over one thousand.

The economy saw inflation contained while the tax collection base was pushed up and debt levels pulled down. Industrial production was intensified and exports rose. From a crawl, the country raced and achieved lower middle income status.

The existing road network has increased many times over and the ports of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanga and Mtwara have been enlarged to handle more load capacity.

With Magufuli, Tanzanians have certainly made many developmental achievements and there are still many projects that, when completed, will be of great benefit to the country and the region. Among these projects is the Standard Gauge Railway whose completion Rwandans eagerly await.

Of course, ‘The Bulldozer’ had a very big Achilles’ heel. He never realised that Tanzania could not live in a silo. That it had to actively engage the continent and the world, if for nothing else, to assert the continent’s dignity for equal partnership with other continents.

Denying the existence of Covid and dismissing it as a cruel creation of the West that could vanish in the face of crude indigenous potions was surely a fatal mistake (no pun!) When all global communities were crying “Devastation!”, trying to attain progress without addressing it was an effort in futility.

All Magufuli needed was to effect citizen-centred leadership where he’d be guided as he’d guide, to do an even more sterling job. You cannot single-handedly bulldoze people out of jobs on the spot, instead of straightening and strengthening institutions to handle things better, and expect any meaningful transformation.

Dishing out tax-payers’ money to single vulnerable persons without putting a programme of empowering herd communities instead is a populist approach that’s definitely ill-advised. So is scaring private business and investment out of your country.

With his ears connected to Tanzanians of all categories, he could also have found a way of accommodating opposition politicians and critical media personalities.

As if the Rwanda I am talking from does not share the same Western flak in that area, I can hear some of you sneer! However, there is a difference in where the two countries are coming from.

Show me a Rwandan oppositionist politician or critical journalist who differed with the government on policy and I’ll show you a man or woman who was drafted into government or enjoys all media freedoms. Otherwise peddling retrogressive divisionism tactics, genocide ideology or resorting to terror acts are all in contravention of the laws of this land.

Tanzania, having enjoyed a history of relative peace this far, is not victim to such criminal poseurs.

But we are celebrating the life of a man who pushed Tanzania to remarkable heights of progress within the short span of five years. As he took us all by surprise at every turn, how many surprises would he have sprung if the Almighty he believed in had allowed him to serve his term?

As President Samia Suluhu Hassan steps into his giant shoes, she’ll do well to consult an equally hard-work-focused tiny neighbour to her country’s north-west, as did Magufuli, but making sure to observe the methodical ways every detail was handled.

Fare thee well, Magufuli!

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