John Pombe Magufuli, was elected President of Tanzania on October 25, 2015. Backed by Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Tanzania’s dominant political party, Magufuli secured the election with 58% of the votes to Edward Lowassa’s 40%.
About the Bulldozer
Growing up as the son of a peasant farmer, Magufuli found it important to pursue education and provide proper education to those in need. His goal lead him to earn his teaching education degree from the University of Dar es Salaam focusing on chemistry and mathematics. Soon after, Magufuli became a teacher at Sengerema Secondary School between 1982 and 1983 teaching both chemistry and mathematics before joining the Nyanza Cooperative Union Ltd as an industrial chemist. He began his political career in 1995, after being elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Chato. He was a member of parliament for roughly 10 years before his nomination for president in 2015.
Waste Cutbacks and Corruption
In his first speech to parliament, Magufuli made it clear to his country that he was passionate about change. CNN covered the story quoting President Magufuli, “I’m telling government officers who are lazy and negligent to be prepared: They were tolerated for a long time. This is the end.”
President Magufuli proved to be serious about cleaning up the countries waste and corruption, and over the next several weeks after his initial address, he made major changes, including:
- Merging of some ministries and dispensing of others to cut the cabinet down from 30 to 19 posts
- Firing the Ports Authority Director General Awadhi Massawef and Chief Edward Hoseah
- Limiting and banning inessential foreign travel and business class flights with the exception of the most senior figures
- Ensuring accountability by personally visiting ministries to ensure that staff are at their desks and working
- Addressing lavish state events and banning independence day celebrations to put efforts into street cleaning and cholera
Why Tanzanian’s Love their President
Tanzania has been recognized as a stable political nation among a relatively volatile region, however, the country has suffered from a lack of investment in human capital. After his initial decree to cut out expenses for independence day, his ratings soared, and some citizens considered that Magufuli actually getting his hands dirty by picking up trash secured his commitment to tackling corruption. Tanzanians also relate to the President’s humble beginnings. His ability to demonstrate integrity while showing he is ready to work hard for the office has continued to build his support and love.
What do His Opponents Think?
Deemed as the country’s tightest presidential race in history, only 63% of registered voters actually turned out to participate in the election. Edward Lowassa, Magufuli’s main opponent, reportedly got 39.7% of the votes. Since the election, Lowassa has formally rejected the results indicating that the electoral commission was imbalanced and had partisan favoring. In addition to his rejection, he is among one of the two candidates that did not sign the consent forms. The remaining 6 candidates have consented and support the decision.
President Magufuli’s first few months in office have clearly shown why his nickname is “Bulldozer”. With continued public support and commitment to reform, his presidency may usher in true change in Tanzania.