What would Magufuli do in Lesotho?
TANZANIA’S new President, John Magufuli, is certainly a breath of fresh air in the African political landscape dominated by leaders who are not accountable and live large while the people wallow in poverty.
He only became president as recently as 5 November 2015, but Magufuli is not pulling any punches when it comes to government reform and weeding out corruption. In a continent where, in general, corruption and embezzlement of public funds are a way of life for African leaders, he has basically done what many people thought to be impossible by a leader from this continent.
Unlike our coalition government which has barely effected any meaningful reforms since assuming power in March this year, Magufuli already has at least 10 major positive changes to report.
On his first day on the job, he visited the Muhimbini National Hospital, their national referral hospital equivalent to our Tšepong, and found patients sleeping on the floor with equipment that was not working. He immediately fired the management of the hospital and within days the available equipment was fixed.
Magufuli scrapped independence celebrations, choosing instead to spend money on sanitation, fighting cholera and new beds and equipment for hospitals.
Declaring it shameful to be “spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera”, Magufuli said that on independence day, every household would be required to participate in a nationwide clean-up campaign.
As if that was not enough, a state dinner for the official opening of the country’s parliament was going to cost 300 million Tanzanian shillings (about M2 million). Magufuli slashed the budget to 25 million shillings and ordered that the rest of the money be used to buy 300 hospital beds and 600 sheets.
In his third day in office, Magufuli banned all foreign travel by senior government officials. Magufuli’s spokesperson, Premi Kibanga, said: “Unless there is an urgent undertaking abroad one could be allowed to travel after getting permission from the president or the chief Secretary.”
Instead, civil servants are urged to spend more time traveling to rural areas and fix the country’s problems there. Such a decision would elicit a coup by many of our breed of politicians and senior public officials who thrive on per diems.
Other austerity measures include a moratorium on firstclass tickets for government officials (with the exception of the president, vice-president, and prime minister) or expensive hotels and cars. Lavish cocktail parties and dinners hosted by public institutions have also been cut back.
The president has also prohibited public officials from sending Christmas and New Year cards from the government’s budget. The funds set aside for the printing of these cards will instead be used to pay off government debts. Another bold move was that, instead of sponsoring the annual World Aids Day exhibition, the money budgeted for the event will be used to buy drugs for HIV patients.
It’s an approach familiar to those who followed the 56-year-old’s previous stint as Tanzania’s public works minister, in which his zeal earned him the nickname of tingatinga, Swahili for bulldozer. He oversaw some of the country’s largest construction projects worth trillions of shil- lings without even a whisper of corruption or maladministration.
The tagline for Magufuli’s presidential campaign was “Work, nothing else.” Contrast that with most African politicians who think public office is a ticket for perks. Our Members of Parliament feel entitled to M500 000 interest-free loans among other benefits, yet the majority are barely able to keep their heads above water.
Magufuli’s actions are being eagerly discussed on social media under the hashtag #Whatwouldmagufulido with often humorous on his Nyereresque austerity measures. But beneath this light-hearted trend lies a genuine longing for political accountability and for a new political culture that dispenses with the Africa’s big man syndrome.
It will, of course, be some time before his presidency can be properly judged, but Magufuli has given us a benchmark to judge leaders across Africa.
As individuals, we can also channel our “inner Magufuli” by stating aloud: “What would Magufuli do?” whenever one is about to embark in a course of action that will affect our financial lives.
In Nigeria, the country’s business based magazine Ventures Africa ran a story titled “Here is How Nigeria Can Emulate Tanzania” praising Magufuli for working on his campaign promises. Using Magufuli’s performance, the newspaper is now demanding more tangible action from the country’s president Muhamadu Buhari who came into power six months ago.
In South Africa, an online based publication, The South African.com posted a story titled “10 things Zuma can learn from Tanzania’s new president”.
“So what is it that makes John Magufuli so great? Well, unlike so many of his counterparts, he’s relentless in his assault on corruption, laziness, and overspending; something that no doubt has already made him very unpopular among his own political comrades. Let’s face it; the man makes almost every other leader look like a thief,” reads part of the story.
There you have it! This is the formula to get voters excited: just serve and deliver.
Hopefully, aspiring leaders in Lesotho are taking a cue from this
Tanzania’s President John Migufuli