GONE is the man who will forever be remembered for his economic diplomacy, spread of diplomatic wings and regional bloc leadership. President John Magufuli who ascended to power in 2015, has been Tanzania’s shortest serving president, but one who has had a huge impact in attaining development for the country and its people.
Since assuming office, the late President Magufuli has asserted a strong stance against public spending and has discouraged foreign travel by him and his senior government officials.
He made his first foreign visit to Rwanda in April 2016, five months after assuming office.
The other countries that he toured until his passing away are Uganda (thrice), Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In spite of such few visits, JPM has been vibrant and served well as a regional leader within East African Community (EAC) as Chairman of Heads of State Summit as well as successfully leading the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
He stopped ‘business as usual’ attitude of some Tanzanian ambassadors abroad, becoming tough to ensure that they serve the country by bringing in investors as well as tourists, something that has since paid handsomely for the country. In September 2018, JPM warned the country’s ambassadors and diplomats to account for their performance or risk being returned home, saying he would not hesitate to dismiss non-performing ambassadors representing Tanzania in various countries.
He spread the diplomatic wings by receiving China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Chato, Geita region on January 8 this year, asking him to convey his sincere greetings and best wishes to President Xi Jinping. He noted that the older generation of Chinese and Tanzanian leaders nurtured deep friendship between the two countries with sincerity and good faith.
He told him that Chinese people have always been close friends and good brothers of the Tanzanian people, adding that Tanzania is deeply grateful for years of tremendous assistance provided by the Chinese people to its struggle for national liberation and development.
He noted that Tanzania was willing to continue carrying forward the traditional friendship between the two countries and to stand firmly with China on all issues involving China’s core interests and major concerns. China has made remarkable achievements in economic development, and the two countries witness mutual beneficial and win-win economic and trade cooperation.
JPM was also elected as Chairperson of the EAC Heads of State, leading the bloc by, among other things, reducing spending. He has been all along eager in strengthening the integration process. The former Head of State has been insisting that the situation of food security in the region was important in many circles.
The President while calling for concerted efforts to address the situation mentioned surplus grain reserves in the Republic of Uganda and in the United Republic of Tanzania. The president further rooted for industrialisation, market access regulation and other global developments.
Throughout his presidency, President Magufuli has styled himself as an African nationalist, a bulwark against imperial exploitation and as pro-austerity, anti-corruption crusader. But this Tanzaniafirst policy outlook has not gone unnoticed in the region.
JPM was honored also to lead the SADC, saying apart from many achievements of the bloc, member states still have a long way to go in realising the dreams of the bloc’s founding fathers. In 2020, President JPM said that a majority of the 350 million people of the now 16- nation bloc were still grappling with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and hunger, despite being endowed with abundant natural resources like fertile land, minerals, forests and water.
In its condolence message following the death of President Magufuli, SADC Chairperson and Mozambique President, Mr Felipe Nyusi said SADC region and Africa as a whole have lost a great, committed and inspirational leader admired across the African continent and the world.
“H.E. President Dr Magufuli will always be remembered for his developmentoriented leadership and commitment to SADC deeper political and socio economic regional integration. Upon assuming the SADC Chairpersonship in August 2019, H.E. President Dr Magufuli reiterated that, “The United Republic of Tanzania is fully committed to SADC’s vision; goals, principles and ideals, and indeed, we always consider SADC as an integral part of our future’. “True to his commitment to the SADC ideals, he steered the region to record a number of milestones, such as finalisation of the development of the SADC Vision 2050 and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030, two blueprints that provide a strategic direction of the SADC Region in the years ahead,” said President Nyusi.
Dr Magufuli always sought practical solutions to increase industrial capacity and intra-regional trade in the SADC region as reflected in the theme of the 39th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government held in Dar es Salaam. He was urging SADC Member States to harmonise policies, laws, regulations and improve the quality of standards of goods and services, so as to increase the volume and value of intra and extra regional trade.
The untimely passing of President Magufuli came barely a week before SADC commemorates the Southern African Liberation Day on 23rd March, 2021, a day dedicated to honour men and women for their sacrifices in the liberation struggle.
In his SADC Day Message on 17th August, 2020, President Magufuli paid tribute for the achievements of the SADC founding leaders and successive leaders and added; “We should always guard against complacency since much still needs to be done in order to realise our founding fathers’ dream and vision.”