What would Magu­fuli do in Le­sotho?

Lesotho Times - - Scrutator -

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

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