MBALE — I know the comparison of Magufuli to the late Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada sounds out of range, call it outrageous but I have my reasons to think the reference is ideal.
Both of these leaders were dictators not in a bad sense; they did not allow restrictive legislations like our own PPDA to curtail development and quite often than not took advantage of executive orders to make things work for the common good.
For those who lived through the times and those who have read the right scripts of objective writers, you will agree with me that had it not been for Field Marshal Idi Amin, many Ugandans would be slaves to a certain group of people who had occupied this country alongside the colonial powers.
Without mincing my words, I can with all honesty say that Amin was and is the only President that had a clear and workable vision for this country but just like Magulfuli, he left too soon.
Magufuli’s short comings are nothing compared to his achievements. Magufuli knew it for a fact that to develop an African country and indeed Africans, you must employ some traits of high handedness and of course positive dictatorship like Kagame has done to transform Rwanda.
Those who have criticized him for bypassing some laws in his development agenda, suffocating media space, firing leaders without a fair hearing are only demystifying the thinking that Magufuli was a small god incapable of making mistakes.
For those of you who are pointing a finger at his attitude towards covid, Magufuli’s achievements have laid a firm foundation for the country’s lasting economic transformation and if the same can be sustained by Samia Suluhu, Tanzania is set to give Kenya and not Uganda a run for its money.
Magufuli’s legacy in eliminating corruption, enforcing government programs, supervising some projects himself, building hospitals, army and police units, schools and government infrastructure cannot be compared to any other. Just like Amin, Magufuli can be described as a true statesman whose love for his country portrayed him as being over-ambitious and so was Field Marshal Idi Amin. To these two, the sky was the limit; may their souls rest in peace.
My going back to Tanzania in June 2019, I could only tell my Tanzanian friend that indeed Magufuli deserved another term in office. I had first and last traveled to Tanzania by road almost 16 years ago.
When the Scandinavian bus reached Namanga border point into Tanzania, our own borders in Uganda could be equated to cities.
Stopping at Arusha enroute Ngorongoro, Dar es Salaam, Kasambeko and Dodoma, one could tell a story of a sleeping giant that was probably waiting for the arrival of Magufuli to wake up. Many of these towns spoke volumes of the colonial days meaning that there was nothing to talk about Eat Africa’s largest country.
So many years later, Namanga is 10 times better organized than our Busia and Malaba, thanks be to Magufuli’s last five years of hard work and a vision to transform his country that had enjoyed years of peace but without a single sign of development. It is only after a person has been given a chance to lead that their true traits can be manifested.
Magufuli was not just a statesman and a man of action; he avoided bureaucracy in causing the implementation of developments. He did not stop at making orders and surrounding himself with the greedy, the good for nothing talkers, the corrupt and the slow, those who enjoyed travelling abroad to attend seminars, workshops, trainings and conferences;he walked the talk.
In just five years, Magufuli cemented his legacy almost out witting that of the founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, clearly demonstrating that with steadfast leadershipone does not need many years in power.It is possible to sustainably transform a country from grass to glory. His focus was built on research based on the mistakes of his predecessors.Magufuli knew that by passing archaic laws, fixing government inefficiencies, getting rid of bureaucratic procedures, cutting wasteful expenditure, and widening the tax base would avail him with sufficient resources needed to develop the country without relying on foreign aid.
In many African countries, you hear of individuals or parties taking part in an election with only one vision, to take power and then think of what to use that power for after assuming office. Shortly after taking office in late 2015, Magufuli is on record for having cancelled the symbolic Independence Day celebrations and directed all the funds budgeted for the event to be used to widen a part of a highway at Ubungo. You would never hear of Magufuli moving with a convoy of more than 10 cars like is the case in many African countries. No wonder many in Africa mocked their leaders to perhaps emulate the actions that Magufuli was taking to stop wasteful spending and in return save the money for a meaningful cause.
In just five years of his leadership, Magufuli’s ambitious social and economic projects largely financed by domestic resources, elevated Tanzania to lower-middle-income status. While in Uganda, the total debt, foreign and domestic is projected to grow to 52 per cent by the end of the financial 2020-2021, which is also above the 50 per cent ceiling that Uganda has agreed on with the other East African Community countries with the support of the International Monetary Fund.
Magufuli will be remembered for performing an economic miracle. Four years after he took office with Gross National Per Capita – a measure of economic activity or how much is produced in the country- growing from $1,020 to $1,080 between 2018 and 2019 and above the $1,036 threshold for lower middle income. Such is a person one can call a leader with a purpose. Magufuli widened the tax base and instituted measures to ensure tax compliance across micro, small, and medium businesses firmly keeping the Debt to Gross Domestic Product ratio under 40 percent, the lowest in the East African region and many other African countries.
In his first week in office in November 2015, Magufuli blocked all unnecessary foreign trips for public servants and placed approval of the important travels in his office or head of civil service who was also under strict instructions. This move helped save the country $430m between November 2015 to November 2016 according to Tanzania’s central bank report in early 2017. Such resources are what the country used to provide free education, enhance remuneration for teachers and other public servants.
Having grown up seeing unfairness in the way minerals were being mismanaged, Magufuli redirected his focus on the minerals industry which was assessed to have been contributing about 4 per cent to the GDP. To clean the mineral sector, Magufuli knew that there was a problem with its leadership. He immediately fired the mining minister and chief of the State-run mineral audit agency following an investigation that revealed that Acacia mining – one of the country’s largest mineral export company was,with the help of some technocrats,under-declaring the mineral exports and sharing the loot. Having been found culpable, Acacia was ordered to pay $190m tax for earlier evasion of tax which marked the beginning of a clean-up.
Through lobbying, Tanzania’s parliament enacted and passed three laws that effectively overhauled Tanzania’s mining policy regime and ushered in a new chapter that has seen Tanzania’s rapid development. The reforms included an increase in the royalty rate on gold from 4 to 6 per cent, a government stake of 16 per cent share in mining companies without compensation, and local content regulation requiring at least 20 per cent of the mining company operating in Tanzania owned by Tanzanian citizens.
There are so many successes that Magufuliachieved during thefirst term of five years. He did not even dream of increasing the years to 7, to him, years did not matter but what one does during these years. He will be remembered for resurrecting the national carrier, road networks, expansion of the airport, clean water, power distribution, improvement in public transport, fighting common diseases through hygiene among others. I hope Tanzania does not slip back to moving at a snail’s pace in terms of development.
Finally, I do not buy into the thinking that Magufuli could have died of covid 19 as the western world wants us to believe because of his hard stance towards the pandemic. Magufuli was always aware that he had a debilitating heart condition that is why he lived his life like he had; only one day to live at a time. He could have picked money from the consolidated fund to go abroad for treatment like many of our leaders do but he stayed back.Magufuli refused to get to bed with white man, the International Monitory fund and the other so called African and development partners. This earned him admirers as much as haters who were eyeing business opportunities and a chance to exploit Tanzania.
Whether Magufuli John Pombewas killed or he died of natural causes is a topic for another day.Magufuli goes to rest leaving a lasting legacy and a very strong message that, indeed, you can do so much at your place of work irrespective of the time you have been given. It is not time ahead of you that matters; it is what you do while in office that is measured against time you spent there. This could be a lesson to African leaders to recall that even the best dancer will at one time leave the flow peacefully or you may be forced off by those who want to dance as well or by natural causes. What you cannot do in five years may never be done in fifty years.
Once again, rest in peace Magufuli, you were out of the ordinary, you did not deserve to live on earth any longer, you deserved better for your zeal, courage, patriotism, boldness and above all for loving your country, being a pan Africanist, and being a true statesman. May your good deeds take you where your heart wants you to be.