President Magufuli governs from the heart, challenges notwithstanding

14Feb 2016
Guardian On Sunday
President Magufuli governs from the heart, challenges notwithstanding

PRESIDENT John Magufuli has marked his first 100 days in office in style, in his characteristic self, devoting his remarks not to foreign envoys and local bigwigs in a State House sherry party but to elders of the city of Dar es Salaam, and the mass of Tanzanians at large.

That seems to have been the idea of skipping the sherry party, knowing that most of those with an interest to shake his hand urgently might be among those targeted by his far reaching reforms, changing governance attitudes manu militari.

That isn’t what many of those who devoted time and coordinated flows of cash for his election gunned for.

Addressing an assembly of city residents meeting under the aegis of city elders as a wing of the ruling party and finally as a state institution – and CCM wasn’t in evidence or in force at the meeting – he went over his now acknowledged reform campaign, taking note of its major highlights.

There is the revolution of sorts in revenue collection but more so, ending decades old abuses in high office, and moving on to sort out painful drawbacks in social services, like patients sleeping on floors in hospitals, pupils sitting on dust in make shift classrooms, etc. The president insisted that these shortcomings are unwarranted.

It definitely must be acknowledged that Tanzania isn’t quite the same from the time Dr Magufuli took office and at present, and mindful of what his detractors say, he took gaily the oft-heard disdainful projection that these efforts of his will come to a stop, soon.

The phrase is that it is the sort of energy one gets upon taking a soda, which can’t last but a few minutes and then the same fatigue creeps back again.

His own response was that if a soda is strong enough and one takes a huge gulp or several, that fellow could easily get drunk. In that context his campaign shall tire, soften, smother the big culprits.

The president’s challenge to other leaders and the sort of examples he pointed at as pleasing in the past three months have something of a first phase ethos in them, for instance the manner in which leaders are supposed to once in a while take from what they earn to help activities or situations in need.

He made a gesture in the direction of Kinondoni DC Paul Makonda as having shown the way in that direction and how he orchestrated similar contributions of one million shillings each from ministers, deputy ministers, permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries.

He said there was a gap of 18m shillings to arrive at 100m shillings shared out between the premier, the vice president and himself!

Pointing his finger at the mass media, he sounded aghast if not alarmed at some of the things he sees or saw, which led him to question is those who wrote those things are Tanzanians, that is, if they have an inkling of patriotism at heart.

Since each of us would be in a position to guess or point at what was the problem in the media reports or in the president’s reaction – including banning a particularly sharp weekly newspaper critical of his government – that is food for thought for media practitioners. We are keenly supportive of the president’s efforts, ethos and all, but differences must be allowed to remain.

There is a formulation in philosophy that nothing (about the world, nature or divinity) is so absurd that it has never been spoken by one thinker or another.

There is a famous 1872 statement by German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche, that ‘God is dead,’ by which he means that this idea is incompatible with science, with reason or free will, whatever the case.

What this formulation is instructive is that in democracy not everyone is going to be considered patriotic by those in office, and indeed by anyone else apart from them, but they should all be protected.

Even if this or that newspaper wasn’t patriotic enough in the eyes of the president or most of us, it will not mess up the country, but if critical voices are shunted down, even the best intended government will soon start living on its praises. And forget its older ethos!

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