by David Brewin
The seemingly tireless new President Magufuli of Tanzania has started his term of office with a number of spectacular measures most of which are not only proving extremely popular in Tanzania but also attracting interest in other East African countries and beyond.
It could be described as a huge ‘cleansing’ operation in which the main features include: a drive to eliminate corruption (in response to widespread demands from the electorate during the November 2015 elections); a cutting out of elements of low priority in the expenditure of government funds; and a better work ethic amongst government employees.
The President has changed so many policies and practices since taking office in November 2015 that it is difficult for a small journal like ‘Tanzanian Affairs’ to cover them adequately. He is, of course, operating through, and with the help of ministers, regional commissioners and others, who have been either kept on or brought in as replacements for those removed in various purges of existing personnel.
Changes under the new President
The following is a list of some of the President’s changes. Some were not carried out by him directly but by subordinates. It is clear however where the inspiration for them came from.
• issued a 7-day ultimatum to businessmen who have evaded tax, to pay up or risk arrest and court charges – “pay now so that we can leave you in peace”;
• ordered police to lock up 20 state employees who turned up late for a meeting in Dar es Salaam;
• made surprise visits to ministries and hospitals, and fired several civil servants after finding citizens waiting for assistance being unattended to;
• reduced the budget allocation for a government cocktail party by 90% because “it makes no sense to have an expensive party when patients are sleeping on the floor in government hospitals”;
• banned unnecessary foreign trips by government officials;
• dismissed several top government officials including the Director of Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau because of inefficiency, plus four other senior officials for defying the government’s ban on foreign travel as part of the new austerity measures;
• dismissed the Head of the Tanzanian Ports Authority and the top official in the Ministry of Transport over allegations of corruption and tax evasion;
• ordered an official delegation to the recent Commonwealth conference to be reduced in size from 55 officials to just 4; this has come as a shock to many government officials who have often used foreign trips as a means of subsidising their incomes;
• on the day of the inauguration of the new parliament, cut the cost of
the reception from some $350,000 to $10,000; the money saved, some of which was probably contributed by individuals and/or institutions was to be sent to the National Hospital in Dar es Salaam;
• arrested illegal immigrants from different countries for allegedly working without work permits and engaging in work that could be done by Tanzanians: 25 of these were Chinese, 5 Congolese, 3 Ghanaians, 3 Nigerians, 3 Somalis and 1 from the Ivory Coast; two Tanzanians were arrested while they were allegedly in the process of transporting 6 girls to the Middle East;
• planned a special court to fast-track the prosecution of those accused of corruption;
• warmly welcomed the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Comrade Truong Tan Sang on a four-day state visit to Tanzania;
• on arrival at a regular meeting of the EAC Heads of State, questioned the rationale of holding such meetings at exclusive resorts when there were offices in each of the member countries; “I do not want to be a parasite” and added that he would be as ‘hands-on’ in the affairs of the EAC as he had been with Tanzanian public affairs; he added: “there is no justification for the summit to be held at a luxurious Safari Lodge at a cost of $45 for each delegate per-day”; during the meeting he brought what was described as ‘rare urgency’ to the proceedings; he was not, he said, a ‘protocol person’ and he hoped that the EAC heads of state would make hard decisions rather quickly;
• assured residents of Mwanza and Kagera regions that his government would purchase a new ship to operate between the two ports in the next financial year in accordance with his election pledge;
• directed the staff of the government newspapers “the Daily News” and “Habari Leo” to emphasise the various measures he was advocating and become leaders in the fight against networks connecting local and international drug dealers; “Those who have too much wealth must explain their sources,” he added;
• made it clear that he would deal with ethical failings by ministers through the ethics secretaries in his office;
• arranged for the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to oversee the printing of two million new authorised text-books in view of the poor quality, especially the col-ours used and poor page layout, in existing books; and to direct the publisher to remove the books from the government warehouse under government supervision; the ministry should ensure that the copies are destroyed and not sold on the market;
• took steps to revoke the establishment of the Arusha campus of the St. Joseph University in Tanzania;
• during the inauguration of a new 240 megawatt electric power plant project – which is using a new technology under which electricity will be generated from natural gas and the heat obtained from the plant will be used to heat water – instructed TANESCO to come up with constructive ideas on how businesses could set up their own electricity plants and stop paying for expensive hired plants; he said that there had to be a point when the country could produce its own reliable electricity and be able to sell the surplus to other countries; he went on to say; “experts or consultants who advise us to hire power plants instead of buying our own are not fit for the job and their employment should be terminated”; The President thanked Japan, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other development partners for their help; The Japanese Ambassador to Tanzania, Masharu Yoshida, said that this project would be the first of its kind in East Africa;
• during his swearing in ceremony gave authorities 15 days to eliminate ghost workers (people who do not exist but receive a salary – at least 1,680 ghost workers have now been removed). He said that the youth in the country should work instead of playing games, such as pool, during the day, while leaving adults to work on the land.
• appointed Mr Hamza Johari as the new Director General of the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA); the previous holder of the post had been suspended for massive financial and procurement irregularities;
• condemned the killing of a British conservationist after his helicopter was shot down while he was chasing suspected poachers in the Maswa Game Reserve;
• at the opening of a new Police Station at Tengeru near Arusha it was announced that no more firearm licences would be issued until all existing licences had been checked;
• the Minister of State in the President’s directed ministries to open registers in which public officials will declare all gifts of a value exceeding TSh 50,000 ($23) they receive; the Commissioner of the Ethics Secretariat commented that, although the law was specific on the matter, he had not come across any gift declaration by any civil servant!
Dr. Magufuli and his family are said to live modestly. His wife is a primary school teacher and the children go to state schools. It is understood that the President travelled abroad only 5 times during the 20 years he was in the Cabinet.