It is now perhaps an appropriate time, as his two terms of office draw to a close, to make a note of some of President Mkapa’s achievements.
Firstly, he has restored the dignity of Tanzania’s national currency. When he took over the presidency, the Tanzania Shilling was depreciating much more rapidly than it is doing now, and was treated with disdain by visitors and citizens alike. I can recall with sadness an event I witnessed at the Dar airport when a tourist was arrested for tearing up a bundle of notes on the grounds that they were useless to him (which was true). Now Tanzanians note with satisfaction that the country has accumulated foreign currency reserves equivalent to eight months of imports. Contrast this with the constant lack of foreign currency that we used to experience.
Mkapa has restored the civil service. When he assumed office, government offices were badly dilapidated, those who worked there were grossly underpaid and a situation was created where they ‘pretended to work, and the government pretended to pay them’. It is true that there is still much room for improvement in our civil service, but the downward trend has been arrested thanks to Mkapa’s quiet revolution.
There has been also a telecommunication revolution under the leadership of Mkapa. He has guided the nation from a situation where even city dwellers could not readily get a table phone, to the current situation whereby electronic communications in Tanzania are as good as any in the region.
Mkapa has re-built the education sector thanks to his clear realisation that an educated populace is the best resource that a country can have.
He has also been a road builder. The Mtwara to Mwanza Road Project is a bold initiative. He had the good sense to appoint a most capable minister, the Honorable John Magufuli, to look after this sector and no one in Tanzania can dispute his well completed work.
Finally, Mkapa has managed to continue to permeate Tanzania with a sense of direction and good governance, a sense that was beginning to vanish. It used to be quite common to hear people on the street in Tanzania asking: ‘Hii nchi ina serikali kweli?’ i.e. does this country have a serious government? There was the beginning of anarchy. Civil servants were beginning to steal not only the monies entrusted to them, but also misusing the positions conferred on them in a number of ways.
These achievements and many more belie what many people believed when Benjamin Mkapa was picked as the preferred presidential candidate by the late Mwalimu!