Late John Joseph Pombe Magufuli was a man who deftly played the long political game, he was nevertheless a puzzle both to Tanzanians and the world.
The president leaves behind a legacy of extremes, on the one hand, a leader who wanted to create a better country for his people, and on the other, a ruthless authoritarian.
From infrastructure development to the suppression of political and civil rights, Magufuli’s leadership has left a significant legacy that many are yet to fully comprehend.
When he first became president in 2015, he gained worldwide acclaim for his no-nonsense approach to fighting corruption and imprudent government spending.
Magufuli made Tanzania a middle-Income country, he made economic reforms, including making consistent plans and taking hard decisions aimed at improving its economic development. The World Bank last year categorized Tanzania as a lower-middle-income country, a status Tanzania had planned to gain in 2025.
Many African countries rely on loan and other grants for development but John Magufuli rejected a $10 billion loan from China which was signed by his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete for the construction of a port at Mbegani creek in Bagamoyo of Tanzania. Magufuli had said that “only a drunkard will accept the terms of agreement in the loan.”
Born in 1959 in Tanzania’s Chato district in the Lake Victoria zone, Magufuli unlike many African leaders never went on state trips outside Africa even after being sworn in as president. He also banned government officials from foreign trips and abolished their tax exemptions, he instead ordered them to visit villages and other rural parts of Tanzania.
A month after being sworn into office. He fulfilled his campaign promise of a small government, appointing only 19 ministers. That compares with 30 cabinet ministers in his predecessor’s government.
Magufuli accused UK company, Acacia Mining of illegal mining and ordered them to pay $193 billion for undervaluing Tanzania’s gold exports. Over 250 containers of theirs were seized at Dar es Salaam port. They paid $300 million and gave Tanzania 16% ownership in 3 mines.
In a bid to improve access to education, Magufuli’s administration allocated $62 million to provide free education in Tanzania. The country’s education ministry banned state schools from charging extra contributions of about $100 per year as some families struggled to meet these extra costs.
Magufuli acquired six Air Tanzania planes, expanded Terminal III of Julius Nyerere International Airport, he also built Tanzania Standard Gauge Railway, Mfugale Flyover, Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station, Ubungo Interchange.
Dr Magufuli built Selander Bridge, Kigongo-Busisi Bridge, Huduma Bora Za afya, Vituo Bora Za Afya, expanded Port of Dar es Salaam, Dodoma Bus Terminal, an LNG plant, a water project, a wind farm project, Uhuru Hospital project, a gold refinery plant, and Magufuli Bus Terminal.