From ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
DAR ES SALAAM, (CAJ News) – DAYS after Joseph Magufuli was sworn in as Tanzania’s fifth president, six government officials were detained after turning up late for a meeting.
They were released after six hours.
They showed up two hours earlier the following day for the rescheduled meeting.
Analysts described this as a warning shot by the new government of Magufuli, who was elected on a campaign of premised on restoring discipline in the civil service and, broadly, tackling corruption in East Africa’s second-biggest economy.
Described as a no-nonsense results-oriented leader, who earned the nickname, “The Bulldozer”, during his ten-year stint in cabinet, he is a devout Catholic with a corruption-free reputation.
Magufuli was sworn in on November 5, 2015 a week after facing off a stiff challenge from former Chama Cha Mapinduzi stalwart, Edward Lowassa.
As he began his term as President, Magufuli made international headlines for his austerity and impatience with corruption and waste.
He cancelled Independence Day celebrations, traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism.
It was the first time in the 54-year history of independence from Britain the day was not celebrated amid pomp and fanfare.
In its place he declared the day, December 9, should be spent on street-cleaning to improve sanitation and arresting the spread of the cholera outbreak.
Pictures of him participating in that event, collecting rubbish, and then riding back to his office on a bicycle, were transmitted across the region and beyond.
“It will be shameful to spend huge sums of money on the celebrations when our people are dying of cholera,” Magufuli said.
His inauguration had coincided with the water-bourne disease killing over 60 people.
“Although Magufuli has gone on to do more concrete things since then, his first act in cancelling the celebration of Independence Day was peculiarly daring and significant, in a symbolic sense,” said Peter Fabricius , a consultant with Institute for Security Studies.
Enraged by the dilapidated state of Dar es Salaam’s Muhimbili Hospital where patients slept on the floor or shared beds – he diverted 200 million shillings (US$91 500) budgeted for ‘parliamentary parties’ to buy 300 hospital beds.
He also replaced the governing board and cut the spending on his inauguration from US$100 000 to US$7 000 and gave the difference to the hospital.
Magufuli also downsized by more than 90 percent the budget for the opulent state dinner that usually marked the opening of parliament and ordered the money saved to be spent on hospital beds and roadworks.
When he opened the new Parliament he told parliamentary chiefs to slash his speaking time, saying Tanzanians “didn’t want to hear speeches, they wanted action.”
“I’m telling government officers who are lazy and negligent to be prepared: They were tolerated for a long time. This is the end,” he warned.
He also cancelled foreign travel for officials and banned the purchase of first-class air tickets, although the president, his deputy and the prime minister were exempt.
Furthermore, he ordered that government meetings and workshops be held in government buildings than expensive hotels and cut a delegation of 50 people set to tour Commonwealth countries to just four.
He also publicly issued a warning to would-be ministers that he would not tolerate corrupt and bureaucratic government officials. The ministers would have to work tirelessly to serve Tanzanians along with him.
A few days before announcing his cabinet, Magufuli fired the director general of the Tanzania Ports Authority, Awadhi Massawe, and the permanent secretary in the transport ministry, Shaaban Mwinjaka, following the disappearance of over 2 700 shipping containers at the port.
The head of the country’s anti-corruption body, Edward Hoseah, was sacked for negligence.
On December 10, more than a month after taking office, Magufuli finally announced his cabinet, composed of 19 ministries. It had 11 fewer ministries than the previous government. Some ministries were merged to save money.
Home Affairs Minister, Charles Kitwanga, was in May fired for attending Parliament under the influence of alcohol.
Opposition hailed the move.
“The action taken by the president is of paramount importance and exemplary in his leadership,” Zitto Kabwe, National Chairman of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo, said.
Tanzania has since Magufuli’s ascension to power removed more than 10 000 “ghost workers” from its public sector payroll after a nationwide audit found their fraud cost the government over $2 million a month.
Magufuli ordered the national audit in March as part of a wider corruption crackdown.
Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, said the audit was continuing.
“We will identify those behind this payroll fraud and take them to court. The fight against corruption is top priority for the government.”
– CAJ News