Dar es Salaam — President John Magufuli enjoys a 96 per cent approval rating, according to a new study by the advocacy organisation Twaweza.
The study, titled The People's President? Citizens' Assessment and Expectations of the Fifth Phase Government, and whose results were released yesterday, also indicates that nine in ten (88 per cent) of respondents were confident that President Magufuli can maintain his current momentum to the end of his term.
According to the survey, President Magufuli's actions that have drawn the most approval are the removal of ghost workers (69 per cent), free education (67 per cent) and dismissal of crooked public servants (61 per cent).
Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said they do not disapprove of any of President Magufuli's actions.
The issue of sugar prices and restriction on imports of the commodity were the only area in which there was significant disapproval at 32 per cent.
Only six per cent of respondents disapproved of the President's actions that are seen in some quarters as having restricted "democratic space".
The report, however, notes that it was not surprising that Dr Magufuli's approval ratings are sky-high because Tanzanians have a tendency to rate their leaders highly compared to other African nationals. Mr Benjamin Mkapa had an approval rating of 93 per cent when he left office in 2005, while Mr Jakaya Kikwete had the lowest rating of any Tanzanian president in the last two decades when he was rated at 71 per cent in 2012, according to Afrobarometer data.
The Twaweza survey involved 1,813 respondents from across Tanzania Mainland and was conducted in June. This has raised concern whether the results reflect the current situation given the political upheavals that have happened in the last three months and in which Dr Magufuli has been a central figure.
Activist and blogger Chambi Chachage, who was a panelist at the unveiling of the report, queried whether President Magufuli's approval rating was still the same three months after the survey was conducted.
"We need real time data...it is possible that the new leadership was still in its honeymoon period in June. We now have two burning issues in the country, namely the state of the economy and the Opposition's plan to stage countrywide protests, both of which are directly linked to the presidency. I don't think the approval rating has remained unchanged to this day," he said.
His views were echoed by a lecturer at St Augustine University, Prof Mwesiga Baregu, who is also a member of the opposition Chadema's Central Committee.
"You can't tell me that only six per cent of Tanzanians are concerned about the President's actions that have reduced democratic space in the country. The reality is that Tanzanians are becoming more and more concerned about some of the President's actions and remarks which are flagrantly unconstitutional," he said.
Twaweza Executive Director Aidan Eyakuze releasing the results yesterday did not affect the study's relevance, although he added that people had the right to voice their reservations.
Another aspect of the study which raised concern was the revelation that the majority of respondents (61 per cent) said they felt they were not adequately informed of political developments in the country, while only four per cent felt they were well informed.
"We're always taking about empowering people to enable them make informed decisions. If 61 per cent of respondents admitted that they were not well informed then that raises questions on the validity of the whole content of the survey," said Mr Chachage, adding that, "... and that has a lot to say about why only six per cent approved of the President's actions in addressing tax avoidance and only one per cent approved of measures to reduce unnecessary expenditure and fight corruption, although these are key initiatives by Dr Magufuli."
In other areas covered by the survey, 76 per cent of respondents wanted public officials to be sacked only when proof of wrongdoing has been established.
Twenty-five per cent said officials should be sacked for disobeying the President's directives, while 75 per cent were of the view that public servants should be dismissed for poor performance.
Ninety per cent said punitive action against public officials would serve as a deterrent, while 48 per cent said this would encourage others to come up with new ways of concealing wrongdoing. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said such action would demoralise other public officials.
Seventy per cent said they believe that the quality of public services has improved under President Magufuli, with Tanzania Revenue Authority topping the list of public entities at 85 per cent, followed by public schools (75 per cent), police stations (74 per cent), courts (73 per cent), public health facilities (72 per cent) and water service providers (67 per cent).