Saturday, January 9, 2016


Magufuli's first two months have been nothing less than eventful; so eventful that we may be missing the point. So as I make a return to this platform I chose to reflect on what is at stake and what these two months could mean as a result.

First off, the next five years can be anything else but business as usual. With 58% of the Presidential votes, 2015 was the lowest victory margin secured by CCM in our 20 year old multiparty democracy!

Also worth noting is that Dr Magufuli is by many measures an 'unexpected' President. Just as much as most people didn't expect him to be President, there are many more who didn't and still don't know what to expect from from him as President.

His initial blows were just as targeted as they were hard hitting: working without a cabinet for a record 1month, exposing tax evaders, unseating one suspected culprit after the other, speaking his heart's truth while making the establishment types cringe; sending a clear message of a no nonsense work ethic. This coupled with budget

Yet it is quickly becoming evident with detractors throwing some blows of their own on such matters as the 'real' size of his government, some 'suspect' appointments in his newly formed cabinet and the dramatization of his signature unannounced visits, that he is not completely removed from scrutiny and judgment.

Yet, one cannot help but commend, with admiration, the sheer gravity of the impact of his first two months. It's always suspect when global media draws attention to anything positive out of Africa. But this in itself is telling as most global media outlets that gave a nod of approval to the 'Magufuli Fever' were simply in a state of shock that 'there was an African leader with common sense and willing to use it'; I wouldn't really call this positive news on Africa.

To understand where the inspiration for Magufuli's back-to-basic for-the-people approach may have come from, one simply has to answer the question - why is Tanzania so different from its neighbors? Some say we [Tanzanians] don't have peace but rather we just claim to have peace. Ok, then, why is even this 'claim' to have peace unique to Tanzania?

We are bigger and more diverse than our neighbors; we have more resources, from fertile land to mineral deposits, to fight over than our neighbors; we have all the divisive forces on standby for the next despot to tap into from the major religions to several sizable tribes and a growing divide between the haves and have nots; we even have a unique and very complicated union to nurse one election year after another; yet we are a Nation still. What makes or made Tanzania so different?

The only answer I can come up with is Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the founding father of this country. If the adage saying - 'the first impression is the last'; then we were gifted with a great first impression of what a statesman and government should be.

In all his glory and controversy; Mwalimu invested in two things most consistently: nation building and promotion of human dignity (utu). Mwalimu understood very well the role of the people's psychology in building a sense of nationhood and how to shape it. As a parent, one could ask which would you give first to your child if given the option: material wealth or knowledge? Most responsible parents would choose knowledge because that is what children need even if it may not be what they want. As a responsible father of this nation, Mwalimu invested in what we needed to build a sense of nationhood, even if it meant forgoing what most may have wanted or desired at the time. While other nation's founding fathers were allowing their children to forgo 'school' in exchange for material gain, Mwalimu forced us to stay in the class of human dignity and nation building. Boring as this class may have been for some, we can now see the benefits. We are now able to view material gain through the lens of human dignity while others face the challenge of trying to view human dignity through the lens of material gain.

Mwalimu infused this sense of dignity by enforcing social justice as a must and not exception, while upholding the role of government as a just and trusted instrument always acting in the interest of a greater good (sometimes not evident in the immediate). Mwalimu made and enforced bold decisions that were not without casualties but always informed by this spirit of building a nation and centering development around the dignity of people. He nationalized schools (most of which belonged to and benefited members of religious institutions) so that people of all religions could have access to education. He forced us to live and integrate with each other as it was common practice for people to work, study or attend military academy for long periods in regions that were not of their origin. He even compelled us to speak with each other using one language - Swahili, as the official medium of communication.

During Mwalimu's Tanzania people may have been materially poor but they were rich in dignity and self worth and didn't feel as poor as one who is poor in today's much wealthier Tanzania. For example, in Mwalimu's Tanzania, you could go to a public school like Mbuyuni Primary School in Dar Es Salaam and easily find children of permanent secretaries, secretaries and their house servants all in one class. Visit Mbuyuni Primary School today and tell me whose children are schooling there now and envision what that means for Tanzania as a nation in the future. At one time attending public school provided hope for the most marginalized and hopeless but now for most it is the final nail in sealing the coffin of their doom.

Arguably, Magufuli also understands the role of a people's psychology in building a nation, if not just managing one.

The people, at least to a certain extent, have lost hope in the government and are bordering on losing hope in the State and our sense of nationhood.

It is foolhardy to assume that this downwards spiral can simply be reversed in 5years, let alone 2months, but start we must.

I find Magufuli's first two months at the helm to be encouraging because he has chosen to give the marginalized masses a voice they can connect to and a reason to believe in the Government as his primary agenda. On top of this, and maybe most importantly, he is not being pretentious while at it! He is simply being Magufuli; a pure scientist turn politician who hates laziness and loves his numbers. This is such a big plus for him and his regime because acting is hard in the long run as some of those ministers who are trying to copy him will discover.

Tanzanians, at best, live in two political extremes - we either want someone to save us or we want someone to blame; sadly, with very little room for anything in between. So as a leader, in a country like this one, if you are willing to be the savior, get prepared to take the blame; or otherwise just ignore both knowing that as a leader you cannot mean everything to everyone but you have to mean something at least to those that matter most.

Take it or leave it, that's Magavilla's Take!

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