Tanzania: Has President Magufuli forgotten Nyerere’s lessons?
The president seems to be repeating the mistakes of Tanzania’s independence leader rather than learning from his legacy.
I visited Tanzania last month for the first time in five years and for the first time since John Magufuli was elected president in 2015. I have been visiting the country regularly since 1976, living there for a year as a student in 1979 and for three years as a diplomat in 1993-6. I have followed its fortunes through the decades with close interest, meeting all its presidents (except the incumbent) at one time or another.
While I was there on this occasion, the journalist and African Arguments contributor Erick Kabendera was disappeared: that is, he was picked up by police and kept incommunicado for several days until he suddenly re-appeared in court and was improbably charged with economic crimes and tax evasion. This is not a lone incident: since 2015 it has become common for independent journalists to face harassment and even death, and for the government to obstruct news or even the publication of standard national statistics it dislikes. It is worrying both many Tanzanians and many of Tanzania’s friends overseas.
[I had to flee my home Tanzania for doing journalism. I was lucky.]
It is worth asking where this new trend has come from. Since independence in 1961, Tanzania has been a beacon of the liberation struggle in Africa and of peaceful political stability. The country’s moral and political compass was set very firmly by its first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, whose picture still hangs on many government, hotel and shop walls alongside President Magufuli. All Nyerere’s successors have appealed to and pledged to uphold his legacy.
So what is that legacy? Nyerere was relatively unusual among African presidents in that he left a substantial body of writings that set out his political thinking and which enable us to see its evolution. While sometimes intolerant of criticism, he tended to respond with argument rather than force. Nyerere’s thinking changed over time, his ideas adapting in the light of experience, but some elements remained unchanged: a powerful moral tone; an intolerance of corruption; a central role for the state but with a real accountability to the people; and, above all, the value of unity at the national level, in the union with Zanzibar, and across Africa as a whole.
Nyerere started as an unabashed African socialist. Capitalism and colonialism had gone hand-in-hand and destroyed many traditional communal values. These needed to be restored and Nyerere justified Tanzania’s one-party state as necessary for building national unity and avoiding political divisions. He also advocated ujamaa villagisation as a path to economic and social modernisation.
Over time, though, the president came to see the drawbacks of both policies. Although the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) had robust internal competition and accountability, any single party that remains in power continually tends to become complacent and corrupt. The target tends to become climbing to the top of the party tree and reaping the benefits along the way rather than serving the people. Meanwhile, villagisation and state production proved socially disruptive and financially disastrous. Economically, Nyerere’s prescription just did not work.
In response, Nyerere did two things. Firstly, he put in place succession arrangements that allowed him to step back from running the government. Although he retained oversight as CCM chairman, he stepped down as president in 1985 and allowed his successors to liberalise both politics and the economy. In the 1990s, multi-party politics was re-introduced, a number of loss-making parastatals that were draining the government’s resources were privatised, and the country began to encourage outside investors. Nyerere’s personal interventions became increasingly rare, limited largely to upholding the sanctity and importance of the political union with Zanzibar and working for peace in neighbouring Burundi.
Nyerere’s legacy was to value unity but recognise diversity, not overstay his welcome, and be guided by principles but adapt his policies in the light of experience.
[Is Tanzania discarding Nyerere’s freedom-fighting legacy?]
Fulfilling or negating Nyerere’s legacy?
Like his predecessors, President Magufuli puts great emphasis on respecting Nyerere’s legacy. Selected at least in part for his well-known personal probity, he entered office breathing fire and fury against corruption in the state machine. His dramatic interventions appeared to shake state utilities out of their torpor and corrupt practices. He developed and delivered some basic infrastructure, including roads and energy. All of this was overdue.
But in other respects, Magufuli’s administration seems stuck in the early Nyerere-ite mode of suspicion, even hostility, to international capitalism and open markets even within its region. It has returned to preaching a narrow view of self-reliance similar to that which led the country to near bankruptcy in the early-1980s. In political terms, Magufuli seems have adopted an intolerance of criticism and opposition that Nyerere abandoned in his later years. CCM seems increasingly frightened of democracy, fearing that given a free choice and facts the people just might choose someone else.
To constrain the opposition and harass the free press will in the end destroy democracy and even the CCM itself. We have seen elsewhere political leaders deciding they should be the sole arbiter of decisions and stay on in charge long after their sell-by-date, presiding over ever-more corrupt and incompetent governments and leading their countries to wrack and ruin. In almost all cases, it does not end well. The same can apply to parties as to individual leaders.
Tanzania is a country of huge potential. It is rich in land, material resources and people. To make the best use of them for the benefit of its citizens, it must also be rich in wisdom as well as morals. As everywhere, these resources are best developed by a fruitful, harmonious and respectful cooperation between insiders and outsiders. There is competition, but it is best complemented by collaboration.
Tanzania has benefited greatly from regular political succession in its leadership, but it would be a betrayal, not a fulfilment, of Nyerere’s legacy to refuse the Tanzanian people a free and informed choice about the party and policies they want. Mwalimu would probably be angry as well as sad to think his successors had learnt the wrong lessons he was trying to teach them – that they preferred a closed to an open society and were looking to the past rather than the future.
This article was also published on the Royal African Society website.
In Africa we have a say…a food that you never taste how would know the taste of it. The writer should leave us Tanzania alone. We don’t bother and never back down. Till when you guys will learn that colonialism has no room in Africa
When trying to narrate any story about Tanzanias movement one need to be an impartial and fair so as to unfold what is hidden underneath.
Only nationalists will like his policies and brave actions Otherwise critics will continue to exist till the end of the world .He is on track .Keep delivering
You either do not understand Tanzanian or you have your own agenda. You have come to Tanzania so many times, but it looks like you understood very little. All that Magufuli is doing is what Nyerere would have done if his hands were not tied up by you know who. The experiment with your liberalism failed us, going back to Ujamaa … mtaisoma namba
You understand nothing about Tanzania but western hypocrisy. Tanzania now is making significant development under Magufuli and every good wisher can see it. Puppets who want him down will always receive their prize. Who is Kabendera? A criminal should not be tolerated whatsoever. It happens everywhere! even in Europe and America. Criminal’s home is in prison.
The poor writer of this article thinks that his words will work, sad that he doesn’t know Tanzanians do not care what the West thinks about their lives. Be it Nyerere’s mistakes or legacy, doesn’t concern you. If you live in paradise why do you worry for those in hell? Leave us alone! Let us do the worst to ourselves and you can laugh later if you think that’s all you have to do with your lives. Why is it the problem of the West when a “little African country” is working hard go better her peoples’ lives?…
Such devious hypocrites. The only reason you want Magufuli to learn from Nyerere’s “lesson” is because you benefit when we cannot have control over our resources. You were glad Nyerere “failed”, you would not like Magufuli to re-try his path. If some one fails at his attempt to be a decent human being, you do not tell them to try devious ways, unless you are one devious human being.
For 30 years after Nyerere, the country was being looted left right and centre. Where were these people who now spring up to give uninvited opinions? To them it was ok when a few people got rich in expense of everyone else, that way they, their friends and their sponsors, can come in and easily have their share.
Nyerere graciously accepted defeat, but he knew he was defeated by the West. Next time you come to Tanzania, ask about our perspective on how Nyerere was frustrated by your friends when he tried to pull off the Stieglers Gorge Hydroelectric project. Ask about our perspective on the story of the Williamson Diamond Mines and how Nyerere was totally humiliated by your friends. Nyerere lives, and we do not forget. Kabendera does not speak for us, he speaks for you and your friends. We Tanzanians have never failed to support anyone with our interests at heart.
We majority of Tanzanians are happy with what our president John Magufuli is doing. The minority who were very corrupt ,drug dealers tax aversers and the like display their hatred because they are now under control and can no longer do whatever they used to do. I hope the author of the is among the corrupt and drug dealers.
Magufuli for the development of Tanzania and Africa as whole. We love Magufuli. Those who were benefiting from our resources leaving our people in great poverty are now bitter because are now stopped from syphoning our resources. Our economy is skyrocketing majority of Tanzanians love and like what Magufuli is doing. It is my trust if the whole Africa will imitate Tanzania, Africa won’t be called a dark continent.
Journalists are taken to court like any democratic country……justice is in the hands ofnthe courts so lets not give the impression that magufuli is wrong…..if he was in the wrong journalists wud not even be taken to court as we often see in other african dictator countries………we are proud of magufuli, he is not nyerere nor trying to be him. He is magufuli a president that is bringing developments neva brought by former presidents and continuing the projects nyerere neva got to finish!
this is nosense, this sounds like one of these leeches who have been sucking our blood for so long and now they are so uncomfortable with the person who cares for his own people at the expense of their leeching behaviours. Keep your nose in your own business, Tanzanians matters are not yours to deal with. Magufuli is the Best president Tanzania has had since Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere. So, please be productive with your time and do something that concerns you, if all you’ve got is this non=sense mumble-jumble. Nyerere worked for Africans up to the time he went to the grave, and Magufuli he’s bringing back to the Tanzanians what have been stolen under their noses for a very long time.
Most of your comments are wish wash answers, you guys who think Tanzania is on the right track are just trying to show your pride for nothing. Just today our ATC plane has been held in SA. Why is the government now not talking about unemployment, democracy and our economy growth. Be realistic guys. Hawkers are now everywhere, and you are still fooled this is the best way TZ can go. Am not with you scholars of the old age. Where TZ is head is just economic infatuation.
Keep enjoying your international economic principles ignorance.
It is so ironic that whoever has a different view or opinion in Tanzania is seen as a puppet of the west. They always try to brand people names and make it seem as if they are unpatriotic or they know nothing about the country and it can even go further by bringing up baseless charges – such preferred charges include economic sabotage and tax avoidance. Unfortunately it has been the new norm to see all critics of the regime facing such dubious charges.
The current regime has no respect to the rule of law and human rights and there are plenty of examples that can be accounted. The regime does not seem to like being challenged nor given a positive criticism. Tanzania is heading in the wrong direction.
I wouldn’t be surprised that most of the comments given above are from those who are actually benefiting from the system and deliberately turning a blind eye on all that is happening in the country.
I was born in Moshi in 1962. My father was born in Arusha in 1936. My mother also several generations in Africa. After reading this article I was releived to read the comments, all by Tanzanians :). Good comments, and they put the finger on the sore spot. This journalist of the Royal so and so seems stuck in a colonial heritage/attitude.
Dear Mlewa, Hawkers were everywhere even before we elected Magufuli. Unemployment was here even before Magufuli. And I don’t think if you were the president you would do better anyway. He is our best bet so far. You seem to think we should have elected thieves like Lowassa to continue the looting. You have the right to hold any opinion, but Magufuli was elected by Tanzanians, he has constitutional powers to do what he is doing, and there is very little you few can do about it, including cheering anytime our plane is held like in SA. You can continue to pray for all misfortunes to fall upon us, we will pray you continue to live to benefit from any successes that Tanzania gets from Magufuli’s efforts. If he does not succeed, then there is no difference with the past two presidents anyway, it cannot get worse, at least he tries.
Dear John, if you believe that the west has never tried to recruit puppets in Tanzania, you are right. If you believe they have never succeeded, you are right too. If you believe there are no individuals in Tanzania paid by elements from the west to for the interests of those who pay them, then you are right. You are always right. I am sure I am wrong to believe that Kabendera was an asset of some elements in the west, because every article he wrote was aimed at promoting interests of the Tanzanian people. It is ok to be wrong sometimes.
Yawn!! Please wake me up to re-read this article after Assange and Manning are free, Justin Brake is a myth, Guantanamo Bay is closed, and China is a super power that is bombing some parts of the West, bullying them for no apparent reason.
This is the great article indeed. We sober Tanzanians understand and agree with you. MAGUFULI lacks personal confidence, he runs the country out of FEAR, he is paranoid. Which creates bad atmosphere in the country. Business are being closed and harassed, leaders have no moral authority as they want to please MAGUFULI (out of FEAR). There are even state sanctioned newspaper (TANZANITE et al) that are going about defaming people character and malicious accusations, just to foster climate of FEAR and pleasing his ego.
I can tell you with assurance, 90% of comments here are organized by state to discredit this article. YES, things are bad.
Dear James Dotto,
If you are one of those who used lived on corruption, yes things are indeed bad, and I hope and pray to God they continue to get bad for you until you find ways to make a honest living like the rest of us. It may not be easy for you, but it is good for our children and grand children.
And since we are in the business of spewing up unsubstantiated remarks and illogical thoughts, please allow me to make some: I can tell with assurance, your comment is organised and paid for by some extraterrestrial entity, or even satan himself. In Tanzania things are very good. Tanzanians are the happiest people in the world, they suffer no diseases, and food is free. You get paid for thinking about working, you don’t have to actually work if you don’t want to. There is rain when you want rain, there is sun when you want sun. The government will start a business for you and pay you taxes if you ask. Mobile money services give you monthly dividends for just owning an account. Life in Tanzania is good, don’t listen to James Dotto and their friends.
good day! Fellow Africans and Citizens of the World.
how very fortunate for myself. discovering the africaarguments.org site and finding an open access comment space to see how Tanzania sees the World in Africa.
Fortunately, I am one of those MAGUFULI’s new Billionaires. So, rest assured I am making an honest living. And I give him a lot of credit for many things.
BUT running any organization by FEAR is never sustainable, let alone a country. Magufuli can clean corruption and do whatever he wanted without breaking the constitution repeatedly. When leaders start operating above the law, our children and grand children will never have a country.
But I definitely agree with you, we are the happiest people in the world. and we will all go to heaven when we die.
Dear James Dotto
I have seen both sides of Tanzania & Magufuli stands closer to Nyerere than any other leader post Nyerere – this is a fact.
You know some people believe in theoretical democracy & this is partly why so many countries in Africa are struggling – theoretical democracy ethos are dictated by the North and all what is expected is to follow!! Tanzania has not been spared with this game of ‘theoretical democracy’ = 2 terms & elections!!! Here are the facts: Tanzania after Nyerere, leadership fell into ‘theoretical democrats’ (selfish & king leaders) who turned the country into a ‘Graft Land’. Frankly speaking the 2nd, 3rd and 4th cohorts of leadership were hopeless and complete failures. The emergence of the 5th leadership cohort under President Magufuli should be considered as a breath of fresh air. Let the grafters punt like thirsty dogs & Magufuli Oyeeeeeee!
It seems democracy does not work for poor countries. When leaders gets to power it is time for them to eat, before their times ends. When we elect another one, he takes over and it is time for him and his family to eat until there will be nothing to eat and start eating their own people. Democracy is not helping us just changing the looters. Tanzanians now have found a good Presidents after 40 years of 4 completely useless leadership. We must ask ourselves on who interests MAGUFULI should step down? Who is going to take over? It has taken 40 years, 4 10 years term, to find Dr Magufuli the best for Tanzania so far, as a Tanzanian I am very worried who will take over after Dr Magufuli. Tanzanians must think careful and let Magufuli fix the country which was destroyed for many years, 10 years is not enough. Another 15 years Dr MAGUFULI will turn round Tanzania and its people’s minds. With his good leadership Tanzania will be an example of good leadership in Africa. 15 years more for Dr MAGUFULI, to fix this broken country.
I will say something I am a kenyan Iwhen contrast nyereres ideal they are still exemplary. This writer is patronizing and looking down on Africans, I usually tell my friends magufuli is the leader africa can offer the good thing is that to us kenya he is in our neighborhood and and our prayers one of our leader will copy him
Dear James Dotto,
Congratulation for your billions made. However, that does not explain what you are frightened of. Did you steal some of it? Because if you did, be very very afraid because they will likely come after you.
As far as I know, under Magufuli, the day such billionaires like you had to share their hard earned wealth with politicians to be safe are gone. And as you might have notices, money means little in politics these days,
so you can use your billions to make even more instead of wasting it on politicians.
I have not managed to make some billions, and I do not think it is a goal I can or should go after for many reasons. However, I pray there are more and more who make it like you. And I wish that Magufuli continues to do justice and those who make such billions dishonestly continue to live in perfect fear until they finish returning all that they steal.
I am a Kenyan and for sure in Africa we don’t have a leader like John Pombe Mangufuli. The leader who don’t go begging the West and East. He is working in a corrupt free style and he has reduced his salary in odder to meet the development target. He is the man to watch in Africa and a leader who is well connected with his people on the ground. I admire his very vast development record in which he has done in a very short time and with him in 10 years Tanzania will be competing with Angola and South Africa if not Egypt and Ethiopia. HONGERA RAIS MCHAPA KAZI.
Remember always that every body does what is in his or her best interest whether at family or nation level and such interest differ from one family or nation and measures or actions to achieve such interest usually differ even authors differ in interest..now the question is FOR WHOSE INTEREST DOES YOUR ARTICLE IS..???
Nyerere was the best president of the time , everybody know why Tanzanians are together always for so called unity and solidarity , his style of dictatorship was the best way to shape the Tanzanians from tribalism , classes , races , ethnicity , humiliation and exploitation from one person to another up to the nation level.
And is doing fine , and we are the one need that kind of leadership,
We know no dictatorship no development
, welcome again in tanzania, we loves visitors so much
No no no no….. I read the article and this is a really nice piece. I am a Tanzanian and there is a problem with Tanzanians. Why do we feel threatened when a white man writes ill of us? Why do we feel the need to always defend ourselves. Love or hate, you cannot deny that Magufuli has lost his way. This is not what Mwalimu wanted for us. While it is true, he has combated corruption and built infrastructure in the country, you also cannot deny that freedom of expression has been staffled. We are no longer free. Magufuli believes that he is doing it for the greater good but no! This author is correct and spot on sir for writing such a good article!
I still agree with Magulification.Am a kenyan and wish that miracle happens that Magufuli storm our parliament a nd all other leaders to stand and walk straight from corruption. So you who is agaisnt Magufulu is also against me.Leave Africa in whole alone since you are just neo-colonizers who sneak in search of resources brainwashing unaware Tanzanians
Decolonization is a very violent psychological phenomenon according to Fanon. This writer is from the liberation era yet knows nothing of the actual liberation and determination. Read Fanon you will understand that the surrealism movement is over. Now is the time for action. “Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry”.
Just One Word reading exchanges from fellow Africans : “Impressive”!
I say no more!
At least for this Tanzania and our president has taken the right path. You have your right to opinions, though.
Thank you for the well-informed article. It is hard to find articles like this one nowadays. Would like to see the leaders of Tanzania make decisions that think of its people rather than themselves or the upcoming election.
I was a teacher in a government secondary school for 10 years. Retrenched by Magufulications (there were many rotten stuff) in 2017 (mine was misappropriation of study leave courtesy of the conducts possible and normal in the previous regime) I have no job to date (Bachelor of Education Policy Planning and Management). That being said I blame my situation to my deeds that were not patriotic enough to give me earnings today. And that I could not be Pro – Magufuli today, could I? Yeah! I want my President Magufuli’s way.
That you call freedom of expression for whose benefit!? In our Tanzania one may not follow news briefings to know what’s going on…because we know our President is reliable…yes we can sleep doors open … because we are sure he does not sleep … he is keen on finding what is being stolen, stopping what has been stolen and returning what had been stolen. We don’t even know there is no freedom of expression. What for? He speaks for us! What else do you want to speak? To whose ears? We know down here only the thieves wants freedom of expression.. They forget the times we poor Tanzanians had no freedom of expression..it’s now their turn. Long live my President.
I’m a Kenyan based in Tanzania,Magufuli is a God given Moses who was given by God to come and rescue his people.A strong leader and God fearing I’m pissed off by those that critisize him instead of bowing down and praying for him.Magufuli chapa kaz and forget the empty debes that are only making noise without reason.I wish we had one like you.Big up!!!!
Magufuli is on track and the author got it wrong. This aurhor is a promoter of global white minority imperial capitalism with its inheritance of colonial attitude and agenda. The writer has no moral authority to talk about Tanzania or Africa that was under development for centuries when it was under illegal colonial occupation. Let him focus on the social ills that are rampant in the west and leave us Africans alone. We do not his unsolicited opinion. Let him keep it to himself.
This statement “It is worrying both many Tanzanians and many of Tanzania’s friends overseas”. by friends overseas you mean Ne-cons and Noe-liberals who wants Tanzania to just keep being your client state? When you say “many Tanzanians” you mean the ones you sit with in fancy hotels or you mean a typical Tanzanian who is working to make ends meet?
Nick Westcott, another white man doing all he can to ruin a country of black people. You sir are not our friend. Stop this white/western superiority complex, your not a Tanzanian and do not pretend to know our problems or care. All we are asking is LEAVE US BE. we will solve our problems ourselves, matter of fact, no country in Africa has ever been helped by a people of another country from the west especially your country the UK. But we know the list of countries you have ruined.
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