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Will Dar leader President John Pombe Magufuli hand President Uhuru Kenyatta magic wand to fight endemic graft?

By Mercy Adhiambo | November 1st 2016
President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) with his Tanzania Counterpart John Magufuli addresses a joint press conference at State House in Nairobi on Monday 31/10/16. (PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/ STANDARD)

As soon as he was sworn into power a year ago, Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli proved that he was on a mission to confront the relentless corruption that had plagued his country.

Barely one month into office, Mr Magufuli did something no other African president had ever done before: He showed up in government offices to do a headcount of those present. Those found absent were sacked and the late-comers given stern warnings.

Ghost workers who had survived on taxpayers' money for way too long were also unearthed when Magufuli demanded a proper audit of all civil servants.

Magufuli, who had been nicknamed 'Tinga Tinga' (bulldozer) by his predecessor, Jakaya Kikwete, when he was in Cabinet, was living up to his name – destroying and flattening anything that threatened to hinder the development of Tanzania.

When 349 shipping containers disappeared from the port of Dar es salaam, Magufuli neither formed a commission of inquiry nor threatened to fight those who were responsible. He immediately suspended the head of the revenue authority in Tanzania.

The former chemistry and mathematics high school teacher seemed to have mastered the political and social arithmetic needed to transform his country.

His modus operandi, under the hashtag: #WhatWouldMagufuliDo, became a trending subject online, with most people regarding him as the man saving the messy reputation that African leaders have always carried in the global arena.

But even as his name was given a hashtag, skeptics predicted that just like any other newcomer who starts a job with much enthusiasm, he would soon tire and stop trying so hard.

Facebook page

"He reminds me of a moth that buzzes and dances vigorously when light is switched on, but soon gets tired and falls down with a thud," said one follower on a Facebook page dedicated to Magufuli's work in Tanzania.

However, Magufuli has continued to prove that he is more interested in changing Tanzania.

He showed his fellow citizens just how much he means business when he cancelled the nation's Independence Day celebrations and instead asked Tanzanians to spend the day cleaning up the streets.

"We are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera," Magufuli said in explaining why he wasn't keen on spending millions of shillings to display why they were glad to be 'free'.

He also instructed that all government seminars previously held in big hotels and classy conference rooms be moved to government boardrooms so that the money could be put to better use, such as providing affordable healthcare for Tanzanians.

Kenyans yearn for such action – impromptu checks in the national hospital and even peeping in cupboards to see just how much medicine was in storage.

He comes to Kenya at a time when the country is battling several corruption scandals, with the Opposition pushing for Uhuru's government to restore order. Many are keen to see if he will hand Uhuru the magic wand he has used to transform Tanzania.

Magufuli's critics, however, accuse him of having a 'headmaster' approach in leading the country. They accuse him of ruling with an iron fist and firing those who dare to raise a voice against his alleged oppression.

His reported discomfort with those who dare to question his actions have raised concerns not only in his country but also the whole continent.

A few months ago, a man who insulted Magufuli on social media found himself behind bars, in what Tanzanians have termed an "unfortunate case".

All in all, he projects the image of a man who will not stop until he achieves what he set out to do for Tanzania. Just how much he will achieve remains to be seen.

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