Pombe was a blessing with blemishes 

Tuesday March 23 2021
By Nicholas Sengoba

So says the African proverb that you can only accurately measure the length of the lion’s tongue when it is dead. 

 The legacy of Tanzania’s fifth President, John Pombe Magufuli, 61, can now be accessed without the fear of looking over your shoulder.

Magufuli, nicknamed the bulldozer for his aggressive style of getting things done of the double, was several things to many.  
He was a leader who didn’t tolerate criticism and divergent opinion is not a secret Many journalists and Opposition figures like Tundu Antiphas Mughwai Lissu of CHADEMA party can testify to this.

That he was hubristic and intransigent  is not in doubt, especially in his stance and handling of Covid-19. 

He did not believe that the Covid-19 pandemic affect Tanzania. At one point, he stated that it did not exist in that country. 
Ironically, he instead told people to pray, and steam out the virus.

 There was no social distancing, lockdowns or wearing of masks for Tanzanians. Disparaging remarks accompanied the suggestion of a vaccine.


But tacked far away are the solid achievements that transformed Tanzania immensely. The transport system, especially the Standard Gauge Railway, and the revamping of the National carrier, Air Tanzania. 

His war on corruption saw very many in government and the parastatals being sacked and prosecuted. The restriction on unnecessary foreign travel by government officials saved Tanzania huge amounts in per diem and other allowances. 

President Magufuli’s impatience with mediocrity and knee- jerk roadside pronouncement approach, endeared him to many.

 The 90 plus health units and hospitals spread across the country. Then the schools, the mining reforms, the provision of water, and electricity to the majority of the population, etc.

It is quite obvious that Tanzania was on a trajectory of transformation with solid achievements that are visible and tangible. The story of Tanzania under Magufuli was not only about rosy statistics, but also about his hard line tendencies.

Because the world has been made to believe in one solution to progress. We must follow the path of democracy as introduced and practiced in the West. 

It should be one man one vote to get a leader who will then carry out the wishes of the people. 

Whoever does not pretend to follow that or appears to take a different direction from the above dictates is then disparaged, especially by Western media as misguided. 

 But Africa has tried this for the last 60 years and save for a few places like Botswana and South Africa, it hardly works. Even in cases where we have had successful elections, term limits and so on, the majority of Africans still live on less than a dollar a day.

People who live on less than a dollar a day cannot make well informed decisions on who and how they should be led. Most of the time they are looking for the next meal to keep their skins together.

 They in reality are no different from their hunting and gathering forefathers, the people who are often referred to as ‘primitive.’ 

Yet year in year out, African countries keep holding elections that cost millions of dollars and yet the outcomes are predictable in most of the cases.

The incumbent or his choice ‘wins.’ What you have as Opposition are politicians, who also live off people they purport to represent. Africa should take a deep breath and think seriously about the way forward for its progress and survival.

Transformative leaders like the Magufuli’s with all their warts and blemishes are much better than  ‘democrats’ who make no significant effort to strengthen the State and the lives of the people. 

No country in the world that has a weak State, has ever become a viable and sustainable democracy. You need a strong civil service with dedicated and well-remunerated personnel. A police force devoid of corruption, ready to enforce law and order. A private sector that plays within set rules. 

On top of this, there must be a push for building well priced physical infrastructure for the purpose of efficiency and improving the lives of citizen. That is how a foundation for democracy is built. The trouble with Africa is that this does not exist or where it does, it is a façade.
The civil service is a tribal rendezvous of the ruling class. The legislature rubber stamps the whims of the big chief. 

The Judiciary sanitises his wishes then the army and the police act as the guard dog to perpetuate the system. That is why the Magufuli approach with all its roughness on the edges, is a remedial model.

It is important that we urgently build a strong State with most of the facilities that will raise the standards of the lives of the people and add value to them then we start talking seriously about viable democracy.
Tanzania should count itself lucky that they had a leader like Magufuli, who had his country at heart.

 The future of Tanzania is bright if the citizens will emphasise and build on president Magufuli’s transformative legacy. 
Fare-thee -well Raisi John Pombe Magufuli.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues
Twitter: @nsengoba