Magufuli: Guiding star in development and icon of discipline in public service

Magufuli, being a strong and successful leader, had his own ideas and sought to lead his people the best way he considered

In Summary

• Africa has lost a guiding star in development, an example of servant leadership and an icon of discipline in public service.

• In death, Magufuli has left Tanzania more united.

President John Magufuli, nicknamed "The Bulldozer"
President John Magufuli, nicknamed "The Bulldozer"
Image: Getty Images

At 61, President John Magufuli died relatively young and youthfully active in office.

Africa is home to septuagenarians, octogenarians and some on life support systems as heads of state and government. He had just begun his second term in office. This term was tumultuous because of the controversy surrounding the containment measures against the Covid-19 pandemic recommended by the World Health Organization.

Magufuli, being a strong and successful leader, had his own ideas and sought to lead his people the best way he considered. He had risen from relative obscurity in rural Chato district in abject poverty to become the fifth president of Tanzania. His academic brilliance was not in doubt and generally celebrated amongst his peers.

He, therefore, easily exuded confidence but with a rare mix of humility. His second term election earned him many more critics at home and abroad. I choose to celebrate him because every human being has his bad side and that is left to his critics to whine about.

The second reason is because I am also associated with the membership of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. As such I know that he has served us well as party leader. I have been close to this great pan African political party since 2006 at the beginning of the rein of President Jakaya  Kikwete.

I therefore share in pain and grief. President Magufuli espoused the ethos, values and character of CCM in his discharge of duty as head of state and previously as minister under presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Kikwete. He was a CCM ideologue and his nomination in the December 2015 election was befitting his service to the party and country.


The unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar during the 1967 Arusha Declaration led to the creation of Tanzania under TANU and AfroShirazi Party. A decade later, CCM was established under the leadership of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. The word mapinduzi means revolutionary and so CCM was founded on socialist principles that appealed to its eminent leader, Nyerere. It should be recalled that socialist parties emphasise more on discipline than open liberalism.

Disciple and fidelity to party leadership is regarded more than individual democratic ideals. Nyerere was desirous to establish a united nation state in a continent that was emerging from colonial heritage after independence.

The country was expanse and had over 100 ethnic communities. The founding father required a vehicle to help craft a nation state in the modern sense of the word and CCM provided the perfect fit. The party was originally a champion of African socialism and upholder of the system of collectivised agriculture known as Ujamaa.

It was firmly oriented to the left under the mentorship of the Communist Parties of Cuba, China and East Germany. Today, CCM espouses a more social-democratic approach.

CCM hopes to continue to modernise Tanzania to ensure increased productivity, to boost the country's revenue, increase employment and improved management and acquisition of new and modern technology.

It also seeks to increase and expand local and international markets for Tanzania products and strengthen the private sector serving as the engine of the national economy. This is as the government sharpens its focus on provision of social services, infrastructure, security and governance of the state.

Similarly, CCM's major foreign policy focus is economic diplomacy and peaceful coexistence with neighbours. The spirit of Nyerere’s intellectual acumen and nationalist valour still looms large in Tanzania's social fabric and hovers over all its events.

Mwalimu Nyerere and other founders of the Tanzania nation state and specifically CCM established a dynamic structure and tradition that has held the party together since.

Before 1992, when multiparty system was restored, CCM and government were one and the same. However, it was abundantly clear that it was the party that established the government.

The party’s structure emanates from the Chipukizi Cadres up to the Central Committee. The Chipukizi Cadres is the recruitment ground and comprises children of ages 10-13 years. The party religiously does every year and all recruited are inducted into the party philosophy.

They are trained in the party ideology under the youth leadership programmes and later into women and other leadership structures. This is why it is difficult for other parties to beat CCM in any general election, even after the return of multiparty democracy. Anyone nominated by the party for the presidency is sure to win because of the strong , faithful and pervasive grassroots networks that volunteer in the campaigns.

The internal robust consultations within and among the leadership organs have ensured smooth leadership transitions since Mwalimu left the chairmanship in 1985.

Party discipline and patience helped Mkapa, Kikwete and Magufuli ascend to the highest office in the party and government. Lack of the same scattered the ambitions of Oscar Kambona, Salim Ahmed Saalim, John Lowasa and Tundu Lissu to the four winds.

Regularly, appointed leaders must account to the party leadership. Since it is the party CCM that draws the manifesto, the President must regularly table reports on the extent of the manifesto implementation. This determines whether he is allowed a second term or he is recalled. CCM has, therefore, been largely responsible for Tanzania national unity by promoting cohesion through national service and one language —Kiswahili.

Under Nyerere, CCM took upon itself the responsibility of emancipating the African region from the yoke of colonialism. In this regard, it hosted the guerrilla armies of the frontline states of Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Angola and Namibia. These are the sates that form SADC and defer to Tanzania as patron.

During his tenure, Magufuli championed these regional integration ideals more practically. Magufuli was therefore a proud product of CCM and a gallant champion of the party.


When he assumed the presidency,  Magufuli was keenly aware of the challenges that bedevilled his country. Tanzania had just begun to reap the benefits of economic liberalisation. However, government officials took advantage of the move from Ujamaa to line their pockets with state proceeds.

Corruption was his first target and he faced it head on in a manner not known in Africa. Sleaze was supported closely by public service ineptitude. He walked into public institutions and sacked lazy civil servants on the spot. He demanded results and demanded them promptly. This was criticised as high handedness and lacking in legal due process.

However, the results were quick in coming.

Graft stalled and efficiency greatly improved in the public and private sectors. He made huge savings from unnecessary public expenditure and theft of natural resources by multinational corporations.

These savings together with enhanced internal resource mobilisation were channeled to development projects. This enabled Magufuli to avoid the ever appetising foreign debts that continue to weigh heavily on the continent’s neck. In just under six years, the investment in infrastructure is visible, enviable and incomparable considering that no external support was sought. All the presidents at his funeral at Dodoma paid tribute to this rare achievement by an African president.

Education not only became free but also quality in terms of content and infrastructure. Other social services also greatly improved. He championed Kiswahili as the African language. It thus became the official language of SADC and the Mozambican President, currently chair of SADC, delivered his eulogy entirely in Kiswahili.

John PJ Magufuli was a visionary and firm leader. Often these traits were confused with being arrogant and big headed. Africa has lost a guiding star in development, an example of servant leadership and an icon of discipline in public service. In death, Magufuli has left Tanzania more united.

May his soul rest in eternal peace and as we say in CCM, Hapa Kazi Tu!

Kidumu Chama Tawala! Kidumu CCM!