Until his demise on Wednesday evening, Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli was the President of Tanzania. He has been in office for a period of six years from 2015 to 2021. He was determined to usher unprecedented economic growth in Tanzania. Aside his Presidential role, John Pombe Magufuli was the Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Tanzania’s Number one citizen, Magufuli was born on the October 29, 1959 in Chato province, Tanzania. By the time of his death, he was aged 62years.
The Tanzanian “bulldozer ” portrayed himself as a humble man from a poor family background. He often regarded himself as the son of a peasant farmer who was later considered by some, as a controversial leader.
The “bulldozer” name emanated from the fact that he drafted a programme to build roads, as Minister of works, later he was hailed for his anti-corruption stance and his dislike for wasting money.
It should be noted that whenever corruption scandals hit Tanzania’s political dockets, the “bulldozer” Magufuli did not hesitate to act. To him, making surprise visits was no big deal. He at one time made a surprise visit to the Finance Ministry to check on the Treasury and the pace at which public servants had turned up for work.
This sent a strong signal to the lazy government officials who used to take work for granted at the expense of the citizenry. It’s on record that Tanzania is one of the best performing African countries on the continent.
He was first elected as Member of Parliament in 1995. Served in the cabinet of Tanzania as Deputy Minister for Works from 1995 to 2000, Minister of works from 2000 to 2006, Minister of livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010 until he rose to presidency.
Before attaining Tanzania’s top most position, John Pombe Magufuli ventured into elective politics after a short period as a teacher between 1982 and 1983 at Sengerema secondary school. He was mainly teaching chemistry and mathematics. He bolted out in search of greener pastures.
Nyanza cooperative Unions Ltd picked up this gentleman and employed him as their lead chemist from 1989 to 1995. In 1995, he was elected Member of Parliament representing Chato district. He was appointed Deputy Minister for works in his first term as MP for Chato District.
He retained his seat in the 2000 election and was promoted to a full Ministerial position under the same cabinet docket. When President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was requested to take office, John Pombe Magufuli was moved to the post of Lands Ministry and human settlement on the 4th day of January 2006.
Magufuli started his education at Chato primary school (1967-1974). He later went to Katoke seminary in Biharamulo for his secondary Education from 1975 to 1977, then shifted to Lake secondary school in 1977 and graduated in 1978.
He thereafter joined Mkwawa High school for his Advanced level studies in 1979 and by 1981, he was graduating. That same year, he joined Mkwawa college of Education for a diploma in Education in Science majoring in chemistry and mathematics. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree majoring in chemistry and mathematics from the university of Dar-es-salaam in 1988.
Magufuli also earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in chemistry from the University of Dar-es-salaam in 1994 and 2000 respectively. In late 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Dodoma for improving the economy of the country.
“A dog and cat fight.” This was after his overview of not closing worship centers at the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic. It should be remembered that, as many countries declared the need for a lockdown, John Pombe Magufuli did the opposite. He further declared that the Coronavirus pandemic was an ordinary flu, therefore there was no need to shut down worship centers.
When Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, his Ugandan counterpart described the East African Community (EAC) as a household whose members needed to cooperate so as to tame Covid -19 spread, Magufuli treated Museveni’s assertion with contempt. He said at his home town in a local church service that cooperation is majorly to bring development.
Unlike Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, Tanzania did not impose a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus. He said the possibility of a lockdown would send the economy to the “dogs” by fueling acute poverty.
Magufuli Rejects ‘madman’s’ deal with China
He has also cancelled two deals with China; the building of Tanzania’s first electric railway line linking the main commercial city Dar es Salaam to the capital, Dodoma, about 500km (310 miles) away and the construction of East Africa’s biggest port in Bagamoyo, once the capital of German East Africa, at a cost of $10bn (£8bn) .
President Magufuli said only a “madman” would accept the financial terms negotiated by his predecessor President Jakaya Kikwete’s government for the building of the port.
He has long blamed selfish leadership and a failure to put the nation first for Tanzania’s underdevelopment. But it is Western powers that President Magufuli is most suspicious of, and he accuses local “puppets” – usually a cast of opposition politicians, rights activists and critical journalists – of championing the interests of their “masters”.
‘A brutal pragmatist’
“This healthy suspicion sometimes fuels paranoia, which is strange for a president who has consolidated so much power,” Tanzanian analyst Thabit Jacob told an international media recently.
“His nationalism has also turned illiberal and populist. He is squeezing the opposition, narrowing civic space, cracking down on the media and increasing surveillance.
At one point, one of Tanzania’s writers Elsie Eyakuze said he had “brutal pragmatism” that leans on a particular worldview of strong leadership. He further claimed that his leadership does not give room for debate about methodology or possible outcomes as this would ostensibly weaken the government or introduce an element of chaos.
Magufuli has not made a single visit to a foreign country since 2015 when he came to power. He has not as well attended any United Nations (UN) sessions as President of Tanzania.