Easter greetings, Thought I share with you my tribute in honour of the memory of President John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania which I delivered in Parliament on Monday. I draw fascinating parallels between Nkrumah and Nyerere – John Mills and John Magufuli and then I conclude on the inspiring legacy of Magufuli which is worthy of urgent genuine emulation. Please take a holiday read:
TRIBUTE IN HONOUR OF THE MEMORY OF H.E. JOHN POMBE MAGUFULI, PRESIDENT OF TANZANIA WHO DIED IN OFFICE ON MARCH 17, 2021 AT AGE 61 BY SAMUEL OKUDZETO ABLAKWA, RANKING MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT’S COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
I am grateful to you, Right Honourable Speaker for the honour and privilege to pay this solemn tribute in honour of the memory of H.E. John Pombe Magufuli who was serving his second term as the fifth President of the Republic of Tanzania until his sudden demise on 17th March, 2021 at age 61.It was with considerable sorrow and deep sympathies that we followed international media reports of his final funeral rites this past Friday the 26th of March, 2021.Mr. Speaker, the great ancestral bond between Ghana and Tanzania makes it absolutely impossible for this august House not to commiserate with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania and indeed all Africans in this period of mourning.
Our historical ties spearheaded by the two iconic African statesmen – Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah and Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who both led their respective countries: Ghana and Tanganyika (before the 1964 unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar) to independence in 1957 in the case of Ghana and 1961 with respect to Tanganyika. There is no doubt that President Nkrumah and President Nyerere had a lot in common when one studies their socialist ideological convictions epitomized by Nkrumah’s Pan-Africanist industrialization agenda and Nyerere’s “Ujamaa” agricultural and rural development drive.
It is also interesting to observe how the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was inspired by the Gold Coast’s Convention People’s Party (CPP). Both selfless, charismatic and towering fighters of colonialism and imperialism were prominent leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement and achieved remarkable transformation during their tenures. So, Mr. Speaker, Ghana and Tanzania are inseparable and that is why when Tanzania grieves, Ghana grieves and when Tanzania rejoices, Ghana rejoices; acknowledging that the reverse is also true.Mr. Speaker, President John Pombe Magufuli was born on the 29th of October, 1959 in his hometown of Chato in then Tanganyika. His first degree was in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988. He obtained his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Chemistry from the same university in 1994 and 2009 respectively.He was first elected Member of Parliament in 1995. His impressive ministerial journey began with his appointment as Deputy Minister of Works from 1995 to 2000 then becoming substantive Minister of Works from 2000 to 2005, Minister responsible for Lands and Human Settlement from 2006 to 2008, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010 and then back as Minister of Works from 2010 to 2015.On 5th November, 2015, President Magufuli was sworn in as President having won on the ticket of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
He was re-elected in 2020 with an impressive 84.4% of valid votes cast according to the National Electoral Commission.Mr. Speaker, nicknamed “The Bulldozer” largely for his massive road projects and bold efforts in cutting spending and tackling corruption – President Magufuli has erected a legacy that ought to be emulated by those holding and those aspiring to higher political leadership. Soon after taking office, President Magufuli imposed measures to curb profligate government spending. He stopped frivolous foreign travels by government officials, insisted on government using more affordable vehicles and board rooms for transport and meetings respectively.
He famously reduced the delegation for a tour of the Commonwealth from 50 people to four, dropping its sponsorship of a World AIDS Day exhibition in favour of purchasing AIDS medication. He was praised for abolishing lavish events and parties by public institutions as exemplified by his slashing of the budget of a state dinner inaugurating the new parliamentary session and the suspension of the country’s Independence Day festivities for 2015 – he rather opted for a national clean-up campaign to help reduce the spread of cholera.
He personally participated in the clean-up efforts, having stated that it was “so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera”. The cost savings was invested in improving hospitals and sanitation in his country. President Magufuli is credited to have reduced his own salary from US$15,000 to US$4,000 per month. When President Magufuli announced his first cabinet as President on 10th December, 2015, he had reduced its size from 30 ministries to 19 in order to concretely protect the public purse.
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President Magufuli in 2016 introduced free education for all government schools. In March 2017, Tanzania banned the export of unprocessed ores, in an effort to encourage domestic smelting. He spearheaded the amendment of laws governing the award of mining contracts, giving itself the right to renegotiate or terminate them in the event of proven fraud. The new legislation also removed the right of mining companies to resort to international arbitration.
The tax dispute with Acacia Mining, accused of having significantly undervalued its gold production for years, was boldly resolved leading to Tanzania obtaining 16% of the shares in the mines held by the multinational. In May 2020, Acacia Mining paid $100million to the government to end the dispute as the first tranche of the $300million it owed the Tanzanian government. President Magufuli ignored Chinese diplomatic pressure and ordered the prosecution of Yang Fenglan, a Chinese businesswoman popular referred to as “Ivory Queen” and secured a 15-year jail term for smuggling hundreds of elephant tusks.
Under Magufuli, Tanzania recorded some of the highest economic growth rates on the African continent – 5.8% in 2018 and an estimated 6% for 2019 according to the IMF.Magufuli’s government worked on various infrastructure projects targeting economic development. For example, the Bagamoyo fishing port, to which US$10 billion of investment was allocated, is expected to become the largest port in Africa by 2030.He ensured the addition of half a dozen Air Tanzania planes as a way of reviving the national carrier, the expansion of Terminal III of Julius Nyerere International Airport, construction of Tanzania Standard Gauge Railway, Mfugale Flyover, Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station, Ubungo Interchange, new Selander Bridge, Kigongo-Busisi Bridge and many other accomplishments.
Mr. Speaker, President Magufuli was human and had his shortcomings. With the benefit of hindsight, he could have had a better response to COVID-19 instead of his reliance on prayers – even though as a Christian I value the role of prayers in national and personal affairs. Instructively, the Bible teaches us that faith without works is dead. It also appears there were some concerns about his human right record which he could have improved. That notwithstanding, President Magufuli’s example in offering selfless, ethical, visionary leadership that puts the national interest ahead of any parochial consideration is what Africa needs if we must change our fortunes and arrive at the promise land of economic empowerment for our people.
I take the considered view that Magufuli’s success in a relatively short time should teach us that Africa needs both strong institutions and strong men and women in leadership. Strong men and women defined by their grit, determination and conviction to offer radical transformational leadership. Mr. Speaker, I did draw parallels at the beginning with President Nkrumah and President Nyerere. I cannot at this juncture overlook the parallels between President John Mills and President John Magufuli. They both were deeply spiritual and not embarrassed to profess their faith in God; they both were teachers; they both were passionate about cutting waste in government expenditure; they both lead by example in the fight against corruption; fortuitously they both made time to worship with Prophet T.B. Joshua even as President; they both died in office; and they both inspired the youth of their respective countries.
Mr. Speaker, as we convey our commiserations to the first female President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan and the good people of that friendly nation; we do so in the belief that President Magufuli is at a much better place and that our ancestors will grant him a great reception. May our continent be blessed with even more bolder and smarter Magufulis. Rest well, African hero. I deeply appreciate your kindness, Mr. Speaker.