By Janet Zeenat Karim
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” Colossians 3:23-24
When Tanzanian President John Pombe Magafuli was elected as President of the East African coastal country Tanzania, his first actions caused me to leap out and said he should be named, elected, or elevated to the post of President of the United States of Africa. Six years down the road, re-elected
Africa’s sixty-something iconic leader and hero, Tanzania President Magafuli died last week of heart disease, was buried on Monday amid mammoth wailing Tanzanians and his African fellow presidents from 12 states, including Malawi and Zambia. The mourners gathered along the streets where the motorcade carrying Magafuli’s remains traveled, and at the Jamhuri Stadium, they came to mourn a bulldozer extraordinaire. Magafuli accomplished as Tanzania’s leader in his six years in office more than others can in 49 years.
Malawi’s leader, President Lazarus Chakwera who is in-coming SADC Chairman, joined the mourners and in true form delivered a eulogy that straight took me to the Senate steps of the Rome funeral of Caesar by Mark Anthony. The only difference being, while Mark Anthony, perhaps out of fear for his life, starts his speech with the famous words: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him,” the eulogy in essence actually does the opposite. Without accusing Caesar’s assassins, Mark Anthony winds up parading Caesar’s achievements and labeling the killing of his friend as a brutal murder and as patriotic.
At President Magafuli’s funeral, President Chakwera opens with the poignant heavy statement “166 days ago, President John Pombe Magufuli and I had dinner together at the State Residence in Dar es Salaam, but I did not know that it would be our last supper.”
He then moves to the line that like Itsanana (It’s an honor), caught fire, by saying he had come to mourn with Tanzanians the passing of “one of Africa’s finest sons because none of us saw it coming.”
The line “they did not see Magafuli coming” is used to powerful precision and poignantly outlining of Magafuli’s achievements, at how he fooled the world and thus making his death unsettling and “also what we found inspiring about his life.”
The itemized eulogy that has the world abuzz about Chakwera’s speech contains five things that Magafuli’s critics “did not see coming”: curing laziness and sloth in public service, defeating cartels of corruption, becoming a middle-income economy within a single presidential term, building infrastructural projects on time and within budget, and pursuing development projects and following failed prescriptions of foreign financial institutions.
Throwing stones at critics of the African continent in Mark Anthonian style, Chakwera states that “When they said African States cannot become middle-income economies within a single presidential term, they did not see Magufuli coming.” And to global institutions Chakwera, on praising Magafuli said “when they said the only way to pursue our development is to follow the failed prescriptions of foreign financial institutions that have left Africa more impoverished and in debt, than they found it, they did not see Magufuli coming.”
Magafuli, upon taking office vowed and showed himself to be a man of the people for the people and was often seen with the people in their environments. He is captured spending hours listening to ordinary village folk taking the microphone and pouring out their hearts on the hardships they are facing. In many cases, late President Magafuli issued directives to correct the social, economic, or other types of injustices.
Upon his death, the social media cataloged some of the achievements that his epitaph will include:
1. Reformed the Mineral resource policy to involved local authorities in areas where mining was done and have shared with the international companies.
2. Has left Tanzania with a new Airport.
3. New Rail gauge way transport.
4. Construction of the longest bridge in Africa from Dar to Zanzibar port.
5. Left Tanzania with a national carrier after many years of no airline.
6. Abolished spending on public holidays by the government.
7. Banned all forex exchange shops and gave commercial banks the role to protect the dollar earned.
8. Signed the UG Oil pipeline deal that was much expected to go towards Kenya.
9. Numerous roads flyovers, with busways, cycling lanes, and road-user-friendly systems.
10. Tarred 5500 km of roads to open up the country for business and tourism.
11. Left Tanzania elevated to a second-class world economy.
12. Chose Her Excellency Madame Samia Suluhu Hassan to be his running mate in the 2020 elections. She succeeds him to become a member of a slowly growing elite group of female leaders in Africa and the world.
Thus as we mourn the passing of Magafuli, we pause and celebrate again the elevation of a woman to the high seat of the Presidency, Her Excellency Madame Samia Suluhu Hassan, Muslim by faith. She is the 10th female president in Africa and one of only two current female African presidents.
The new Tanzanian leader, President Hassan recently has already had to say this to her critics: And let me add something…For those who are anxious about a woman is the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, I want to inform you that the person standing in front of you is the president (of the United Republic of Tanzania)!!
Tanzanians, joined by African countries and those in the Diaspora, in mourning the bulldozer extraordinaire. Indeed, we join President Chakwera in praying that “may his (President Magafuli’s) name be preserved in every Capital of Africa as a symbol of the kind of resolve that will create the Africa we want.”
RIGELP Jembe letu.