Magufuli leaves a mixed legacy
Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli, who died on Wednesday, leaves behind a mixed legacy.
Magufuli won the hearts of many East Africans for his no-nonsense approach to the management of public affairs, disdain for corruption and wastage of taxpayers’ money.
Before he was elected president he was nicknamed “the bulldozer” for spear-heading successful road construction programmes across Tanzania that will comprise a critical chapter of his legacy.
He is credited for massive expansion of infrastructure such as construction of a standard gauge railway line connecting his country with its neighbours, expansion of major highways and development of a bus rapid transit system in Dar es Salaam.
Tanzanians also celebrate Magufuli for increasing the generation of electricity and revival of the state-run national airline, Air Tanzania.
His critics, accuse him of dictatorship and violation of human rights. He has been the subject of criticism for cracking down on dissent and curtailing freedoms; the right to free speech, media and political affiliation.
He is not only accused of rigging the last general election by creating a hostile environment for any meaningful and healthy competition but is also blamed for intimidating opponents through arbitrary arrests.
It is notable that a number of his opponents are in exile while journalists have been harassed and some publications banned.
Regrettably, the Tanzanian strongman will be remembered as one of Africa’s key skeptics of the coronavirus pandemic, an attitude that put the lives of millions of his countrymen and their neighbours at risk.
While other world leaders enforced lockdowns and enforced various protocols to prevent spread of Covid-19, the chemistry scholar called for prayers and such ridiculous prescriptions as herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.
There was no mass testing and his administration banned release of any Covid-19 statistics.
The irony of his position is that despite the official announcement that he died of a heart condition, speculation was rife that he succumbed to Covid-19 complications.
It remains debatable why a scholar would despise science, truth and facts in favour of conspiracy theories in the face of a pandemic.
Historians and political scientists will have a lot to canvass about his legacy, but Magufuli will be remembered as a strong-willed and patriotic leader with an affinity for efficiency and decency in public service.
As Kenyans join their neighbours in mourning, we call for a peaceful transfer of power.