Tanzania President John Magufuli: The person who ‘banned’ coronavirus

Tanzania President John Magufuli: The person who ‘banned’ coronavirus

By Basillioh Mutahi
BBC Information, Nairobi

John Magufuli (C) speaks during the official launch of his party's campaign for the October general election at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania, August 29, 2020.

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Tanzania President John Magufuli’s idiosyncratic dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic has put the nation within the international highlight. Now one of many area’s most unconventional leaders is searching for a second time period.

When Covid-19 arrived in Tanzania, President Magufuli did not consider in individuals staying at dwelling. He needed them to get into the church buildings and mosques to wish.

“Coronavirus, which is a satan, can not survive within the physique of Christ… It is going to burn immediately,” Magufuli, a religious Christian, pronounced on 22 March from the altar of a church in Tanzania’s capital, Dodoma.

He would later converse towards social distancing and the carrying of masks, and questioned the efficacy of testing after sending numerous animals and fruit to be checked for the virus – he introduced {that a} papaya, a quail and a goat had all examined constructive. The president stated he couldn’t countenance closing down the economic system, and excoriated neighbouring international locations for doing so.

Though many would possibly dismiss Magufuli’s method as eccentric, it’s emblematic of his combative model.

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picture captionMagufuli has additionally advocated conventional drugs resembling steam inhalation within the battle towards coronavirus

He additionally purged hundreds of so-called “ghost staff” – basically non-existent workers – from the general public payroll, and fired officers thought of corrupt or under-performing, in public. Typically this was even finished stay on tv.

And he clamped down on what he noticed as extravagant spending, cancelling Independence Day celebrations for the primary time in 54 years. As an alternative, he ordered a public clean-up, getting his personal arms soiled by selecting up garbage outdoors State Home.

Within the first 12 months of Magufuli’s presidency, this method earned him a substantial amount of reward, inspiring the Twitter hashtag: #WhatWouldMagufuliDo. Whereas some posts mocked the president’s austere insurance policies – for instance: “Was about to purchase myself an oven then I requested myself #WhatWouldMagufuliDo” with a photograph of a saucepan suspended over candles – others known as for extra African leaders to emulate his management model. In 2017, a Kenyan professor went as far as to name for the “Magufulication” of Africa throughout an tackle on the College of Dar es Salaam.

However from the outset, it was additionally clear there was a darker aspect to his management – that a variety of his initiatives would slowly chip away on the nation’s democratic house.

The rap track which got here true

In January 2016, barely two months into his time period, his administration introduced that state TV would not broadcast stay parliamentary proceedings, as a cost-cutting measure. The opposition noticed this as censorship because it was among the many few methods it might maintain the federal government to account. It deliberate demonstrations towards the ban, however the authorities responded by banning all protests.

One other instance of such censorship was Magufuli’s response to a 2017 track by common Tanzanian rapper Nay wa Mitego. Lower than a day after its launch, Mitego discovered himself in police custody.

“Is there nonetheless freedom of expression on this nation?” the raspy-voiced artist, whose actual title is Emmanuel Elibariki, had rapped.

“What if I converse and later discover myself at Central [Police Station]?”

“Are there leaders who make silly choices? There are!”

“Are there those that miss [former president] Jakaya Kikwete? There are!”

He was accused of insulting the president and maligning the federal government. The concern he sang about had come true – he was now being detained on the Central Police Station in Dar es Salaam that he referenced within the lyrics.

Though President Magufuli ordered Nay wa Mitego’s launch only a day later, he suggested that the track needs to be reworked to incorporate lyrics about different issues within the society, resembling tax cheats.

Magufuli’s administration has continued to roll out a cocktail of daring and strange directives, introducing new legal guidelines meant to extend income from multinational mining corporations.

In 2017, Acacia Mining, a subsidiary of Canadian dad or mum firm Barrick Gold, was slapped with an unimaginable $190bn (£145bn) tax invoice over royalties the federal government stated it owed, although it denied any wrongdoing. As a part of the settlement, Barrick ultimately agreed to pay $300m after shopping for out Acacia, and a brand new working firm, Twiga Minerals, was shaped with the federal government proudly owning 16% of the three way partnership. Barrick and the Tanzanian authorities additionally agreed to the sharing of unspecified future financial advantages from the mines on a 50-50 foundation.

Then there was his extremely contentious decree that Tanzanian schoolgirls who get pregnant can not return to highschool even after they’ve given beginning. And in 2018, Tanzania handed a regulation to punish anybody questioning official statistics, making the state the only real custodian of information. The World Financial institution stated the adjustments have been “deeply worrying”.

Getting Tanzania’s transport transferring

However critics agree that Magufuli has contributed to Tanzania’s improvement in recent times, investing in a number of giant infrastructure initiatives such because the creation of a regular gauge railway to attach the nation with its regional neighbours, the growth of main highways, and the development of a bus speedy transit system within the business hub of Dar es Salaam. He has additionally elevated electrical energy manufacturing to the grid which has diminished the necessity for energy rationing.

And he has revived the state-run nationwide airline, Air Tanzania, which, tormented by debt and mismanagement for years, was successfully grounded with just one airplane in its fleet when he took workplace.

The president appointed a brand new board and chief govt of the corporate, which has gone on to buy six new planes and combine others which have been underneath upkeep.

The chief of the East African nation has additionally launched free training for all Tanzanians in public faculties as much as the fourth 12 months of secondary college.

‘Knowledge darkness’ over coronavirus

However it’s Magufuli’s dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic which has introduced explicit worldwide consideration to his governance in latest months.

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picture captionTanzania’s markets, retailers and workplaces have remained open all through the pandemic

After the primary case on 16 March, the one instant shutdown was of faculties and studying establishments. It took a couple of month for the nation to herald different restrictions – resembling halting sporting actions and shutting borders.

Buses and public transport carried fewer passengers, and numbers at pubs and eating places have been restricted, however World Well being Group (WHO) Africa director Matshidiso Moeti accused Tanzania of appearing slowly to curb the unfold of the virus.

“In Tanzania we now have noticed that bodily distancing, together with the prohibition of mass gatherings, took a while to occur and we consider that these may need been possible components that led to a speedy improve in circumstances there,” the WHO official stated in April.

Markets and different workplaces stayed open as regular, as did locations of worship.

“We’ve had a variety of viral ailments, together with Aids and measles. Our economic system should come first. It should stay awake… Life should go on,” Magufuli has stated.

“Nations [elsewhere] in Africa will probably be coming right here to purchase meals within the years to return… they are going to be struggling due to shutting down their economic system.”

In early June, Magufuli declared the nation “coronavirus-free”, and the well being ministry additionally introduced the closure of coronavirus therapy and isolation centres, which had been arrange throughout the nation.

Given Tanzania stopped publishing numbers of its coronavirus circumstances in Could, it’s troublesome to confirm how effectively the nation’s method has labored. The nation had 509 infections when it printed its last tally on 29 April.

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picture captionFaculties have been shut down for a number of weeks, with college students returning in June

“The nation operates in knowledge darkness,” Tanzanian analyst Aidan Eyakuze famous lately.

Hospitals across the nation seem like working usually, although impartial

media and NGOs haven’t been capable of verify that themselves as entry has been restricted. In July, docs instructed the BBC that hospitals weren’t overwhelmed.

‘I do know what it means to be poor’

Magufuli was eager to take care of the virus on his personal phrases, reasonably than being influenced by the actions of different regional and worldwide leaders. He kinds his governance after Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was all the time fiercely impartial.

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picture captionMagufuli has cited founding father of the nation Julius Nyerere as an affect on his management

“Our founding father was not somebody to be directed to be instructed what to do… Those that devise these sorts of guidelines [lockdown] are used to creating these directives that our founding father refused,” Magufuli stated, referring to Nyerere’s behavior of rejecting recommendation coming from Western nations, who the dedicated socialist distrusted.

Magufuli grew up underneath Nyerere’s rule in a village in north-western Chato district alongside the shore of Lake Victoria, and says his modest background has impressed his personal want to work for the Tanzanian public.

“Our dwelling was grass thatched, and like many boys I used to be assigned to herd cattle, in addition to promoting milk and fish to assist my household,” he stated throughout his 2015 marketing campaign.

“I do know what it means to be poor. I’ll attempt to assist enhance individuals’s welfare,” he added.

After college he labored for a 12 months as a senior college maths and chemistry instructor earlier than returning to additional training. He labored for a number of years as an industrial chemist earlier than resigning in 1995 to run for the parliamentary seat in his personal Chato constituency. After taking that seat, he shortly rose by way of the ranks to be appointed deputy minister for public works.

The division’s senior minister, Mama Anna Abdallah, says his no-nonsense model, targeted on effectivity and outcomes, was shortly evident. In his first 12 months within the job he succeeded in steamrolling by way of the constructing of a long-delayed highway.

“He’s an individual who appears to wish to depart a legacy… That is his character, he needs to ensure issues are finished correctly,” she instructed me.

By 2015, Magufuli needed to run for the presidency. He’s stated to have been thought of a consensus candidate for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) social gathering – which had been in energy for 54 years. Analysts say his lack of a political base was seen as an asset reasonably than a legal responsibility, his title not related to corruption in contrast to a few of his contemporaries.

The elections have been the tightest within the nation’s historical past, however Magufuli pulled forward to win with 58% of the vote.

Threatened for talking out

As Tanzania approaches the vote for a brand new presidential time period, requires different regional leaders to emulate Magufuli’s model have lengthy diminished. He has confronted criticism from political opponents, civil society and Western international locations, who say he’s oppressing the opposition, curbing press freedom and holding international corporations to ransom.

However as a president who has usually styled himself as a stout African nationalist and a religious Catholic waging warfare towards international powers searching for to use the East African nation, Magufuli is unlikely to be bothered by such censure.

Within the nation, few have stood as much as him, however for a few of those that have, the results have been grave.

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picture captionThe detention of journalists resembling Erick Kabendera has been cited for instance of accelerating repression towards the media

The president’s pronouncements are sometimes last, says Zitto Kabwe, an opposition chief who has been arrested greater than a dozen occasions since 2016.

“The state needs us to maintain quiet, they threaten us. The very best weapon for us is to talk up and radicalise much more,” he instructed the AP information company in July.

The primary opposition candidate within the forthcoming election is Tundu Lissu from the Chadema social gathering, who survived an assassination try in 2017, and required almost three years in hospital overseas for therapy and rehabilitation. No-one has been convicted for the try on his life, and there have been no updates on the police investigation. Just a few weeks in the past he was barred from campaigning by the electoral fee for seven days for alleged ethics violations relating to remarks he made towards the president.

However whereas Magufuli discourages challenges to his authority, he’s eager on talking on to members of the general public and listening to what they must say.

On the finish of July, he selected to be pushed reasonably than flown dwelling from a state funeral so he might cease alongside the best way to take heed to bystanders’ issues. He stopped in Mkuranga and listened to their points – about grabbed land, marital issues, girls who had been disinherited, a faculty with out desks. The president tried to seek out options, together with holding a fundraiser on the spot.

An expat who labored for the multinational Telco says a number of the nation’s civilians appear to genuinely love a president who will get issues finished.

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picture captionThe social gathering Magufuli is standing for has by no means misplaced the presidency

Because the battle for the presidency attracts to a detailed, Magufuli has the benefit of incumbency, and is backed by a celebration that has by no means misplaced the presidency.

Opposition candidate Tundu Lissu is promising financial progress and respect for human rights. The opposite key opposition contender is Bernard Membe, a former minister and member of the CCM central committee, who’s standing for the ACT-Wazalendo social gathering.

If Magufuli does win a second time period, he has promised to proceed with infrastructural improvement and enhance individuals’s livelihoods.

However except his model of governance adjustments, some opposition activists, impartial journalists and critics will concern for his or her future.

Associated Matters

  • John Magufuli

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