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Magufuli’s energy should not go to waste

Sunday December 13 2015

Tanzania's newly elected president John Magufuli delivers a speech during his swearing in ceremony in Dar es Salaam, on November 5, 2015. He has declared open war on opulence and waste of public resources. PHOTO | DANIEL HAYDUK | AFP

Tanzania's President John Magufuli delivers a speech during his swearing in ceremony in Dar es Salaam, on November 5, 2015. He has declared open war on opulence and waste of public resources. PHOTO | DANIEL HAYDUK | AFP 

LUKOYE ATWOLI
By LUKOYE ATWOLI
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The whole world is now aware that our southern neighbour, Tanzania, recently elected a new president.

The name John Pombe Magufuli has reverberated across the whole world, amplified many times over by his actions soon after taking office.

He has declared open war on opulence and waste of public resources.

He has cut down on all sorts of expenditures related to celebrations, and meeting expenses have been dramatically curtailed.

Just a few days ago he cancelled the country’s Independence Day celebrations, and elected instead to engage in a national clean-up exercise whose symbolic value of clearing cumulative trash and starting afresh was not lost on observers.

Dr Magufuli is totally obsessed with the plight of the common man, and justifies all his actions by invoking the needs of this common citizen.

His energy and activity is infectious.

Tanzanians are in the grip of massive nationalistic fervour, and all are wishing this potentially transformative leader well.

Excitement is rife all over the country, and the traditional lords of corruption are literally quaking in their boots.

Some have already been arrested and are being made to pay the price for their calumny.

LEARNING FROM HISTORY

This post-election excitement reminds one of Kenya in the aftermath of the 2002 election when the Kanu kleptocracy was (at least symbolically!) swept aside and a new Narc administration took office.

Optimistic citizens arrested corrupt traffic policemen and refused to accept roadside edicts.

We took the president’s word seriously, and truly believed that the country was finally on the mend.

The economy improved, infrastructure projects were initiated and life generally looked better than it had been under previous administrations.

And then something went terribly wrong.

Political considerations linked to regime survival ensured that corrupt networks not only survived, but began to thrive.

People lost faith in the government’s pronouncements, and cynicism took a firm hold on our psyche.

Ethnic exclusion creeped back, and then became the norm rather than the exception.

Despite all the infrastructure improvements and relative economic stability, everything came crumbling down soon after the next General Election in 2007.

We became savages and attacked our neighbours ostensibly due to their political views or their ethnic extraction.

My point is that President Magufuli and the Tanzanian citizenry must learn from our recent history.

CITIZENS' ROLE

For the government, enthusiastic action is nothing if not backed by institutional measures to entrench the activity in government plans and policies.

New laws, new strategies and new practices must be entrenched in public agencies to ensure that the action continues even after President Magufuli leaves the scene.

He must find a team of like-minded revolutionaries to help develop his ideas further and ensure they are owned by all national organs.

For the people of Tanzania, it would be advisable to use this momentum to ensure that the government institutionalises the changes that would help improve society.

While the president is clearly well-intentioned, there are many around him who are hoping that he will tire and give up on his reformist push, giving them room to engage in nefarious schemes.

It is the responsibility of the citizens to ensure that this does not happen.

As soon as your eyes stray away from your objectives, the circling vultures will swoop in and reverse any gains you may have made in the past.

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