RED LIGHTS FLASHING
Three years ago this week, John Magufuli came to power in Tanzania amid much fanfare. He’s done much in the way of reform — but the slow creep towards autocracy is concerning
After John Magufuli became Tanzania’s fifth president in November 2015, it soon became clear that this was a man determined to govern differently. Within weeks of his inauguration, he had cancelled Independence
Day celebrations, using the budgeted funds to fight cholera and calling on citizens to join him in a countrywide clean-up instead.
Enthralled by the rare sight of an African president leading by example, the Twittersphere buzzed with photographs of Magufuli sweeping the streets. As a new broom determined to clean up a sclerotic, inefficient and corrupt government, he made surprise visits to hospitals, the finance ministry and elsewhere, firing corrupt and underperforming civil servants and ministers. In 2016 he removed 16,000 “ghost” employees from the public sector payroll; last year, Al Jazeera reported on a further 10,000 fired for lacking adequate qualifications.
A crackdown on tax evasion and a shake-up of the revenue service resulted in 1.3-trillion Tanzanian shillings (about R8.3bn) in unpaid taxes collected in just two months at the beginning of his tenure. When he unveiled his cabinet, it featured just 34 ministers and deputy ministers; Jakaya Kikwete, his predecessor, had 60. Travel perks for ministers have been cut, and executives’ salaries at parastatals slashed.
Magufuli put his money where his mouth is too: last October he revealed that his salary is a mere Tsh9m (about R57,000) a month — reportedly a third of Kikwete’s and markedly lower than that of many other African presidents (Cyril Ramaphosa, for example, earns just over R300,000 a month).
Magufuli’s reformist zeal extends beyond government: he has shown he wants to fundamentally remake the economy too, especially its mining sector. Though it contributes about 5% to GDP, mining is responsible for a third of Tanzania’s export revenue. In July 2017, Magufuli signed off on legislation that requires government ownership of at least 16% in mining companies, increases royalties
What it means: Magufuli’s push for reform has correspondedwith the shuttingdown of civil and political space
on metals exports from 4% to 6% and imposes an additional 1% clearing fee. The law also allows the government to cancel or renegotiate gas and mineral contracts, and forbids companies from seeking international arbitration. Last year, exports of gold and copper concentrates were also banned in a bid to force mining companies to build a local smelter.
Though there is consensus that mining companies have previously had too sweet a deal in Tanzania and that the country deserves a greater share of its mineral wealth, there are signs that Magufuli is going too far.
In 2016, presidential committees determined that Acacia Mining owes the government $190bn in taxes, fines and interest — even though the company, the country’s largest miner, has gold reserves roughly worth just $10bn.
Acacia’s largest shareholder, Canadabased Barrick Gold, has been negotiating with the government on its behalf. In October 2017, it offered a one-off payment of $300m, a 16% share in Acacia’s three gold-