By Winfridah Muthee
Even as the East African Community mourn the late John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania, one cannot run away from the fact that he had his shortcomings.
A man who never shied away from speaking his mind to get things fixed to the expectations of the public but in the process rubbed shoulders with those who stood on his way.
Magufuli was celebrated for his promises to tackle corruption and trim excessive government spending when he firts took office in 2015.
He qucikcly won accolades for ushering in a swath of austerity cuts such as scrapping lavish state ceremonies and unnecessary foreign travel for officials.
However, prior to 2020 elections, Magufuli’s adminstrtaion passed a raft of repressive legilastion exerting what human rights organizations called dictatroship .
During his first term,Magufuli launched several large-scale infrastructure projects.such as the construction of a new railway line from Dar es Salam to Morogoro. He also abolished Secondary School fees.
But says opposition leader Tundu Lissu “that left Tanzania with a mountain of debt and we are going to take a lot of years to recover”.
Instead of fighting corruption, -Magufuli’s most important election promise from 2015- the president has been accused of fighting the opposition members. Opposition members have been arrested and mistreated and Tanzania has limited freedom of opinion and the press, said Mr Hassan Omar an opposition activist.
His hands on management style seemingly worked well to majority of his supporters but to his critics, he had cut the image of an undemocratic leader whose dislike for opposition parties and the media was barbaric and retrogressive to the gains made by previos regimes.
Magufuli’s regime was also tainted with the disappearance of Azory T Gwonda who was a journalist
investigating the mysterious killings in South of Dar es Salaam.
The crackdown on media and bloggers by his government led people to believe he had dictatorship
tactics after he put in place new cyber-crime laws that limited freedom of expression while some media
houses were closed down for allegedly insulting him.
Insulting the president in Tanzania is a crime under the cybercrimes law that was passed in 2015.
While campaigning for his re-election in October 2020 he trampled on media and expression freedoms. It
took the State approval for anything to be published of broadcasted. He breeched the media freedom by attaching state agents to a section of local and foreign journalists to ensure they reported only what
favored the government.
The Tanzania Nation did not observe any measures as directed by World Health Organization to help curb the pandemic.
Even after the WHO asked leaders to be transparent about covid-19 to help curb its spread, Magufuli mocked the efficacy of masks and did not believe the testing worked. He termed Covid-19 as a devil and asked Tanzanian’s to pray about it as it cannot survive in the body of Christ.
He said there was no need to close down Churches and Mosques and encouraged people to go to church and
Schools were also not closed down and business went on as usual as Magufuli was sceptic of the
His Country stopped sharing data about the disease and by June 2020 the Country had not published
data on Corona virus since late April.
Magufuli later declared that the country was Covid-19 free after the National prayers and called for a
It seems like his policy did not work because unconfirmed reports indicate that even with heart
complications,Covid-19 may have been the cause of his death.
Covid-19 is widespread in Tanzania despite the fact that nobody knows how many people have
succumbed to it.
His successor should change tactics and use a different approach by putting in place measures to help curb Covid-19.