Tanzania: Magufuli's Four Years in Office - It Has Been a Whirlwind

President John Magufuli (file photo).
analysis

President John Magufuli has clocked four years in power. To his defenders and admirers, the President has turned things around, as the country had teetered dangerously on the edge of the cliff for so long. They see his leadership as one that has decisively put the country back on the right path; one that reconnects the present with its past.

They have a long list to justify their arguments ranging from massive infrastructure projects around the country, unwavering fight against corruption in its various forms, and a relatively friendly atmosphere in a rough regional neighbourhood. The government's PR machine has done a good job to remind everyone of these achievements.

The many infrastructure projects, and revival missions of some public companies like the national carrier have come with a huge price tag. President Magufuli's detractors argue that in the long run some of these projects would prove costly to the general good health of the economy, and the environment. Such concerns have been dismissed.

President Magufuli's style of governing has not changed from the early days of his presidency; he has remained a disciplinarian. His appointments and firings of public officials from ministers to all sorts of other officials in the government have been largely tied to how he perceives their performance in office. The list of firings includes those who do not fully comprehend or appreciate the power dynamics whether they are in the cabinet or some other government department.

In short, no one is safe from the chop.

We have long forgotten there was a time when the President addressed the country every month. This Head of State has a different way of delivering his message. It can be through a public rally or an impromptu stop somewhere in the country or it could come through the many times he is swearing-in various officials where he provides insight into how he arrived at certain decisions.

To his critics, they have been years characterized by a shrinking political space, and wide nets cast to curtail individual freedoms in certain aspects as certain laws impose various sanctions to would-be offenders. Some have gone as far as saying multipartism should be abolished altogether!

They say life has not been easy under his rule and the economic reality of the poor has not improved. They have many questions about public spending and the fiscal and monetary policies, saying they are unsustainable in the long run. The President's defenders have rejected these arguments, saying he has done much to plug the many holes which had been robbing this country dry for many years and that whatever economic hardships the country is going through now will prove to be temporary in the long run once all the investments in the many projects come to a conclusion.

Of course, some things have stubbornly refused to improve.

While the headlines about mega corruption scandals have almost disappeared, what has filled that void are endless revelations of other huge scandals of impropriety coming from regional administration and local government. That area has long been a huge black hole where development money disappears or those in charge simply re-allocate whatever sums available to different purposes without ever being bothered with obtaining approval for such changes.

In the past these officials had almost a free pass with the press because they could not out-compete the huge scandals revealed almost every other day. However, the damage done by these improprieties at that level of government could easily rival the famous scandals of yesteryear. Development efforts were easily derailed or completely grind to a halt. Take water projects around the country as a case study. Even in many cases where the money for the projects had been fully paid, not a single drop of water was seen by the intended beneficiaries.

Also, depressingly so, we are still a country that rarely moves until the president or the prime minister issue some orders to that effect. It is as if those in the position of making decisions to move this country forward are incapable of their own initiatives. This unnecessarily clogs the system denying justice to many who deserve it. Everywhere the president or the prime minister go, and the list of complaints is long. One can be forgiven to think that there are no government officials in those areas.

Regardless of whether one supports the president or opposes him, both would concur that the past four years have been different. As the saying goes these days, it has been a whirlwind!

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