CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT TANZANIA’s NEW PRESIDENT MAGUFULI IS UP TO?

Some months ago, we received a delightful note about what was happening in post-election Tanzania. So as we negotiate through the general snarl up of a border crossing into Tanzania, I take time to read through it again. Long may the changes last!

For example: the planned Opening of Parliament State Dinner last October was going to cost about 300million TZ shillings. The new President John Magufuli cut the budget to 25million and ordered the rest be used to buy beds for Muhimbili Hospital;  300 beds and mattresses and 600 bed-sheets were purchased from the money saved.

On 21st Nov 2015, a group of 50 government officials were about to set off for a tour of Commonwealth countries (don’t know for what) but President Magufuli cut the list down to 4 people – saving the government 600millionTZ shillings in tickets, accommodation and per diems.

More austerity measures include:

  • No more foreign travel: Tanzanian Embassies must take care of issues; if it’s necessary to go, special permission must be sought from him or the Chief Secretary.
  • No more 1st class and business class travel for government officials – except the President, Vice President and Prime Minister.
  • No more workshops and seminars in expensive hotels when there are so many ministry board rooms available.

No more sitting allowances: how the hell are you paid an allowance for a job which you already receive a monthly salary for?

When going to officially open Parliament, President Magufuli didn’t go by plane: he drove the 600Km from Dar to Dodoma.  He’s also reduced the size of the presidential convoy and the size of the delegation that travels with him.

He also asked: how come government engineers are given expensive V8s when an ordinary pick-up is more suitable for their jobs?

Later, he announced that there would be no official ceremonies for Independence Day on 9 December. The money, he decreed, should be used for more pressing issues and the day should instead be spent cleaning up the environment; everybody should pick up their tools and clean their own backyards. “It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” he said in a televised address.  The President himself led the national clean-up campaign.

He chose a Prime Minister most Tanzanians hadn’t heard of before: a guy with reputation for hard work and no corruption.  All the big guys expecting to become the PM have been left wondering what hit them.

On the day after he was brought to power, as State House officials were showing him round, he decided to take a walk to the Ministry of Finance.  When he saw the number of empty desks he asked why some employees weren’t at work and told them to get their act together (since then, the morning traffic jams have become even worse). He ordered the Tanzanian Revenue Authority to scrap all tax exemptions: everyone must pay taxes, especially the big guys.

President Magufuli went to Muhimbili Hospital unannounced and walked through the worst parts that they kept hidden from important visitors.  He fired the Director and the entire hospital Board on the spot. He ordered that all machines that weren’t working (so that patients would have to attend private hospitals, owned by some doctors) must be repaired within 2 weeks – otherwise he would fire the new Hospital Director.  The machines were repaired in 3 days.

After these surprise visits, the Dar es Salaam port (once a hotbed of corruption, delays and thievery) is all of a sudden the most efficient place:  no loads are missing, things are done quickly and that habit of forcing for a bribe so that your container is released – is no more.

He’s certainly living up to his nickname – ‘Tinga Tinga’ (the Bulldozer) – and has literally pressed the reset button, returning Tanzania to the default settings during President Nyerere’s time.

His motto is Hapa Kazi Tu:  “HERE, ALL WE DO IS WORK & SERVE!”

So as we pothole- dodge into Tanzania (direction Iringa) I wonder what changes we might find.  What an improvement!  The cops in their smart white uniforms wave us forward.

We’re back on the floor of the Great African Rift Valley and not far from Tarangire Game Reserve (some of the best elephant sightings in Africa) when a white uniformed fellow leaps out into the road brandishing his tablet/phone:  “‘Look – you’ve been speeding!” he says.  I politely explain that my state-of-the-art Land Rover Discovery speed control technology is better than his mock speed camera. “President Magufuli would not like what you are doing,” I warn.  Then (pointing to the sky) add, “And Mungu (God)… He is watching,” stroking my Moses beard wistfully.  “You Go!” is the fast reply.

And so we reach our base camp in Arusha. Time for washing clothes and sorting out all our kit for the long journey ahead.

Friends, will keep you posted!