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The cautionary tale of the president who denied coronavirus

John Magufuli

Mr Magufuli all the time vouched for his Hapa Kazi Tu ( My solely focus in work) mantra

The late Tanzanian President John Magufuli was in his factor on 24 February whereas unveiling an enormous street mission in Dar es Salaam – an accomplishment he boasted might solely be achieved by the ruling CCM social gathering.

“It was completed on time because no-one used corona as an excuse to delay it,” he mentioned, whereas applauding the contractors and in addition instructing authorities officers to not entertain anybody utilizing the pandemic as an excuse to postpone the supply of tasks.

This one was no completely different to earlier public features – a choir serenaded him, and he ended it with a attribute speech extolling his mantra of Hapa Kazi Tu (Work is My Only Focus).

“Tanzania is a rich country, we have to use our wealth in order to develop,” he mentioned in his remarks, which additionally chastised tardiness and exhorted Tanzanians to pay their taxes. Three days later Magufuli can be seen in public for the final time.

Since his first election in 2015, Magufuli cultivated the picture of an rambunctious motion man, a departure from his predecessors’ demure and stately type.

His interventionist – supporters known as it “hands-on” – management type received him followers past Tanzania, particularly in the East African area, the place he impressed the #WhatWouldMagufuliDo Twitter hashtag, praising his no-nonsense method to preventing corruption and tirelessly following up infrastructure tasks to make sure they’re accomplished.

What most Tanzanians cared about, his followers argued, was service supply and Magufuli’s populist governing type was efficient and a mannequin for different African leaders.

A person of the individuals

His supporters will miss the hours-long street journeys he launched into throughout the nation which concerned a number of stops so he might communicate with the public.

These journeys, which unnerved authorities officers, had been typically broadcast dwell on TV and have become standard with some Tanzanians who noticed them as a chance to get immediate redress to their issues.

Crowds of individuals typically gathered and shuffled round the presidential convoy on shut watch of the closely armed bodyguards.

Those who had been decided acquired an opportunity to ask him questions, however most individuals used the alternative to plead with the president to intervene on a myriad of points akin to fixing delayed street tasks, unending courtroom instances, complaints about water provide, or grievances towards native officers.

John Magufuli

John Magufuli loved taking street journeys to work together with the public

Standing out of the sunroof of his armoured automobile, with a microphone in hand, Magufuli listened and typically requested follow-up questions. His responses had been blended however by the time he was achieved, a brand new coverage would have been proclaimed, an official both sacked or promoted, or the individual who requested the query humiliated.

He as soon as berated a person in a Dar es Salaam neighbourhood who had complained that it was costly to make use of public bathrooms: “Then leave your faeces at home,” he answered again, to nice amusement and consternation.

Political opponents, neighbouring nations, mining companies, Western nations and anybody he seen as undermining Tanzanian pursuits had been additionally targets of his abrasive governing type.

Critics mentioned he was an autocrat with skinny pores and skin, a person obsessive about constructing a character cult and who didn’t entertain any slights or jests whether or not from musicians, comedians or commentators on social media.

He instilled such concern in the nation that even throughout his greater than two-week absence from public, his draconian insurance policies continued unabated – police arrested these who speculated about the president’s whereabouts or requested merely: Where is Magufuli?

This state of affairs is one thing of a contradiction to his casting himself as a defender of the dignity of Tanzanians.

Find out extra about John Magufuli:

He additionally muzzled Tanzanian media, shutting down a number of newspapers, radio and TV stations in addition to social media platforms merely for reporting what the authorities did not like.

He was additionally criticised for implementing insurance policies akin to banning women who acquired pregnant from going to high school.

But it was his dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic that was arguably his most damning failure.

In his latter days he hectored critics who did not purchase his narrative about the nation being “covid-free” – a stance which was surprisingly in distinction to his sober, science-led method throughout the early days of the pandemic.

Magufuli, a former chemistry trainer, would later push conspiracies about plots to hurt Tanzanians whereas expressing doubt about the security of masks and vaccines.

At one level he despatched papaya and goat meat samples to be examined for Covid-19 and used the outcomes to justify his denial of the virus.

The true price of this negligence and dereliction of obligation will be counted in the quantity of lives misplaced because of this.

Strongmen or robust establishments

There shall be vigorous debate in Tanzania about Magufuli’s legacy and whether or not his successor ought to keep the course or change.

This debate can’t be divorced from the divide about whether or not the continent wants strongmen or robust establishments.

Magufuli appealed to many as a result of he was unencumbered by institutional limits. He issued edicts and issues occurred and to many voters who had grown pissed off by incompetence in authorities, this was refreshing.

But equally many Africans need to dwell in law-based nations, to take pleasure in a life of dignity free of brutality, to have leaders who govern honesty and in truth, and a authorities that respects them and doesn’t disguise details about their president’s well being.

Mr Magufuli’s loss of life has been blamed on “heart problems” however many will nonetheless suspect that he succumbed to Covid-19.

It is an irony that the pandemic he strenuously denied has outlasted him, turning his once-heralded presidency right into a cautionary tale for the area and the continent.


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