On Thursday, March 18, 2021, the world woke up to the shocking news that Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli had passed on.
Magufuli’s death was announced late on Wednesday night by Vice President Samia Suluhu after days of speculations on the Head of State’s whereabouts.
Magufuli’s absence from the limelight had fueled health concerns with the opposition claiming that he had been airlifted to Nairobi for Covid-19 treatment.
In a televised address, Samia said the former Chemistry and Mathematics teacher had succumbed to heart complications in a Tanzania hospital, a condition, according to the second in command, he had been battling for 10 years.
Whereas the authorities in Tanzania didn’t mention Covid-19 as the President’s cause of death, it’s suspected that he succumbed to complications related to the disease he spent months denying its existence.
Magufuli, a man who mocked the efficacy of masks, expressed doubts about testing and teased neighbouring countries which imposed health measures to curb the virus, was revered and reviled, depending on who you ask.
To a section of Tanzanians, Magufuli was their hero, a man who changed the country’s economic trajectory due to his anti-corruption stance.
After being sworn into office for his first term on November 5, 2015, Magufuli swung into action with a clear goal of fighting corruption as promised in his campaigns.
His no-nonsense approach to corruption saw dozens of government officials implicated in corruption suspended.
Among those fired during Magufuli’s first six months in office were six senior officials in the Tanzania Revenue Authority, including Commissioner-General Rashid Bade.
Also suspended was the director-general of the Tanzania Ports Authority, Ephraim Mgawe, over a scandal involving the non-payment of $40 million (Sh4 billion) in import taxes.
Magufuli also sacked Edward Hoseah, the long-serving director-general of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), due to the slow pace of the fight against graft.
Magufuli also worked hard to rebuild lost trust in public service by taking action against incompetent and lazy public servants.
“I’m telling government officers who are lazy and negligent to be prepared. They were tolerated for a long time. This is the end,” Magufuli warned in his first speech as president.
He also slashed government expenditure by among others, banning unnecessary foreign travel for government officials.
The President also made wildly popular decisions such as scrapping lavish independence day celebrations in favour of a street clean-up.
Other gains that Magufuli will be remembered for include improving the country’s infrastructure.
He invested in several large infrastructure projects such as the creation of a standard gauge railway to connect the country with its regional neighbours, the expansion of major highways, and the construction of a bus rapid transit system in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam.
He increased electricity production to the grid which reduced the need for power rationing.
Magufuli also revived the state-run national airline, Air Tanzania.
According to analysts, his results-oriented actions were also framed as applicable to other African countries – a dose of what the continent needs to deal with its governance issues.
Magufuli, who was sworn in for a second term in office in November last year, was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” because of his reputation for pushing through policies despite opposition.
Born on October 29, 1959, in Chato Tanzania, Magufuli is survived by his wife Janet his daughter Jessica and son Joseph.