A twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo making fun of his penny pinching ways went viral last month after he cancelled the country’s independence day celebrations, preferring that the money be used to clean the country that has been hit recently by cholera.
Magufuli, who has only been president for nearly two months, is already stamping his authority in the new government and he is winning fans across the regions, but his screwed ways are proving unpopular among is Chama Cha Mapiduzi (CCM) party ranks.
“He did not emerge from the mainstream political tribe of the country, and even in his own ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi he is seen as an oddity that no one can easily quantify,” Jenerali Ulimwengu, chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam, said in an opinion piece published by The East African.
“He has puzzled the most hardnosed pundits within the party and sent them worrying signals that he may be hard to control.”
Beyond the hilarious Magufuli-themed memes on Twitter, the President has had it tough getting elites to join his new government in different positions.
Emerging as the ruling party’s favorite candidate to take over from former President Jakaya Kikwete, many expected Magufuli to maintain the status quo and have everything rolling as usual.
But the new president had other plans and first on his list was snatching the mantra of Change that had long been monopolized with the opposition.
He turned his focus on the hypocrisy that had stifled CCM for decades and vowed to clump down on shady dealings, extravagance in government office and change the culture of impunity that state officials were used to.
Magufuli also announced a raft of measures meant to curb government excesses and boost revenue collection, directing the Tanzanian Revenue Authority to cut down on tax exemptions.
Even before he named a lean Cabinet of 19, 11 ministries less compared to the previous government, he had already caused officers in sensitive revenue offices to be suspended, some questioned, and suspected tax evaders scrutinized
He banned all but essential foreign travel, and restricted first and business class travel for all officials except the president, vice president and prime minister.
“Unless there is an urgent undertaking abroad one could be allowed to travel after getting permission from the president or the chief Secretary,” Premi Kibanga, the president’s spokesperson, said (in Kiswahili) in a statement.
Public servants have been put on notice, the head of a major public hospital was fired and the hospital’s governing council dissolved when Magufuli paid an impromptu visit and found patients sleeping on the floor and diagnostic machines broken.
When announcing his “delayed” Cabinet that included six women, Magufuli said he could not find four credible names to fill the posts.
Some in the Tanzania’s elite circles have termed his radical ways to Rwandanization — in reference in policies introduced in the neighboring country by Rwandan President Paul Kagame after he took power following the 1994 genocide.