President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania has been praised as the type of African leader that his country has desperately needed in the 21st century. Since taking office in November 2015, President Magufuli has been executing on an agenda that has largely consisted of shooting from the hip; his targets have included international mining companies, corruption schemes at the government level and tax dodgers.
As a political leader, President Magufuli fits the profile of a populist; a style of politics that has been on the rise at a global level in recent decades. This is a president who has not been afraid to divert funds destined to pay for civic celebrations and redirect them towards cholera prevention operations. He is not afraid to walk into ministry offices and demand full accounting, particularly of sketchy payrolls. He does not believe in tax reform; instead he is a firm believer of strict revenue enforcement.
Corrupt government officials who deal with shady business entities have been purged and prosecuted under President Magufuli’s watch. Mining executives have not been pleased since they are now forced to report with great transparency, which means that they are paying more taxes. At one point, the president even hinted at exerting a snap process of nationalizing mining and oil extraction operations, a suggestion that struck fear in the heart of mining executives and has succeeded in keeping them in line. Yet should the multinational mining companies operating in Tanzania decide to side with the parties opposing President Magufuli, his own party will likely lose its political grip, thereby putting his achievements at risk.
In just two years, the United Republic of Tanzania has experienced improvements through social programs that previously existed but did not get funding. Thousands of government employees have been terminated because President Magufuli deemed them to be unqualified and superfluous. Jobs are being created thanks to infrastructure projects to connect with neighboring countries that are enjoying more economic development; as a result, Tanzania’s economy is improving gradually and is projected to grow stronger over the next two years.
Nevertheless, not everything has been rosy for President Magufuli, who represents the Chama cha Mapinduzi party, a political faction that has been in power for decades. To push his agenda, the president has resorted to autocratic measures that could be considered anti-democratic; he has even threatened to use a strong hand to take freedom away from news media. The election of President Magufuli was hardly a landslide. In terms of political acumen, he has pressured the opposition to the point that some of his own partisan leaders have defected. Political analysts believe that the president’s good intentions towards the populace will be his legacy, but it remains to be seen whether he can carry them out into the future administration.