Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has extended his famed austerity measures to the entire region and threatened to dismiss any East African Community secretariat employee who does not toe his line.
Magufuli, whose measures earned him accolades from the region, is now targeting the EAC secretariat he accuses of wasting “meagre resources contributed by member states”.
Speaking in the presence of Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and representatives of Burundi and South Sudan on Sunday, Magufuli accused the secretariat of exhibiting parasitic tendencies.
While other presidents stuck to the long written speeches, Magufuli saw the problem of reckless spending and ordered immediate action.
He had just taken over as chairman of the summit of Heads of State from Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza
The Secretariat’s workers come from member states. It is headed by Burundian Liberat Mfumukeko.
The Tanzanian leader expressed surprise that the meeting of the heads of state was taking place at the high-end and privately owned Ngurdoto Lodge when the more ambience and cheaper East Africa Community headquarters could host it.
“I don’t stop you from hiring conference facilities but be cost-conscious,” he said.
“Think of how to save. We want to save as much as possible for our citizens. We do not want to have a secretariat that acts like a parasite,” he said.
Ngurdoto Lodge charges about $45 (Sh4,590) per person per day. He said other places charge $30 per person.
“East Africans are poor. The secretariat must, therefore, know that it is here because of the sweat of poor citizens. The money saved would have bought school desks or even facilitated Burundi peace talks,” the visibly angry Magufuli said.
Magufuli added that he would identify wayward secretariat workers and recommend them to their president for dismissal.
He added that sacking such people would cure the secretariat of bureaucratic problems.
“Heads of state have made a mistake of appointing me chairman, I will make sure I follow up on the secretariat,” he went on.
President Museveni quipped that it was a good mistake.
When he assumed office in November last year, President Magufuli banned nationwide independence Day celebrations.
Instead, he urged citizens to take part in cleaning towns and villages.
He also cancelled foreign travel for officials and banned the purchase of first-class air tickets, though the rule does not apply to him, his deputy or PM.
Tanzania leader takes over as chairman of heads summit from Burundi head.