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Tanzanians ponder Magufuli's rule one year after election

Stumai George
October 25, 2016

Tanzanian President John Magufuli just marked one year since he was elected. In that period, Magufuli's leadership has raised both hopes and fears with his no-nonsense style.

Tansania John Magufuli
Image: Getty Images/AFP/D. Hayduk

The war against corruption and embezzlement of public funds, cutting down the number of foreign trips by government officials and instantly sacking corrupt or unqualified public servants of various institutions are regarded as some of Tanzanian President John Magufuli's achievements since he was elected into office on October 25, 2016. 

Under his widely-known motto 'hapa kazi tu' which in English translates to "only work matters," Magufuli has managed to introduce a disciplinary environment into public offices which before were regarded as the platforms for all kind of misconduct and misuse of public resources.

Since he was elected, Magufuli has made only two foreign trips and they were both within the East African region. He first visited Rwanda and later Uganda. His predecessor Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete used to take a lot of trips - especially to western countries - which were condemned by citizens and the opposition as a waste of public funds.

Karikatur von Said Michael
Cartoon mocking Magufuli's leadership style Image: DW

"I think he is doing a very great job revealing ghost workers, people who were just paid but in reality never existed. So I think revealing such kind of fallacy has a great contribution to the state," said Kowas Banda, a third-year student at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Dar es Salaam.

It's the economy...

However there are people who think that Magufuli's government is disorganized. "Some of his cabinet members are having different information. A certain minister will say something like we have enough medicine and at the same time the vice president will say something else. That shows how the government is not very well coordinated," said Kalua Ludovick from Dar es Salaam. 

The Tanzanians are also criticizing Magufuli's because of the poor state of the economy. "The president is doing a very great job although the majority of us are claiming that the life of many Tanzanians has become so hard," said a resident of Arusha in Northern Tanzania.

In reply to the hardship claims, Magufuli has been quoted by local media of defending the country´s current economic situation saying that it is the lazy people who are complaining about hardship. 

The state of democracy

Jenerali Ulimwengu, a political analyst in Tanzania, told DW that "Magufuli is definitely a different kind of president from the presidents we have had so far. He has distinguished himself from the other presidents because he has a more direct and frontally-driven style in which he goes out and does things directly without too much consideration for protocol and things like that”

Tansania Jenerali Ulimwengu Journalist
Analyst Jenerali UlimwenguImage: privat

Ulimwengu added that his hands-on style can also rub some people the wrong way. He also thinks that the president's handling of the opposition has led some people to accuse him of restricting the political space. 

Magufuli has shut down newspapers, permitted the winners of the allegedly unfair election in Zanzibar to form a government in the semi-autonomous state, banned opposition rallies and switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions. He passed a cyber crime law under which some Tanzanians were taken to court accused of insulting him.

"He doesn’t look like he is looking for credentials as a great democrat," added Ulimwengu.

Rehema Twalib, the executive secretary of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), an organization that deals with Africa´s self-assessment for good governance, told DW that Magufuli's performance has been mixed.

"Magufuli's leadership has performed well in terms of the improvement in infrastructure and other tangible issues. However, he has failed on the side of qualitative governance which stands for human rights issue," she said.

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