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Posted on Tuesday, 27 October 2015 11:30

John Magufuli: Modest man seeks tough action

Photos© Khalfan Said/AP/SipaThe choice of the serious-minded works minister John Magufuli as the governing party's presidential candidate looks like a cunning but improbable plan to outflank the opposition coalition.

 

By general assent, the theme of Tanzania's elections is 'change': that obviously challenges the incumbent Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

So along comes Magufuli, one of the lesser-known ministers but one with a reputation for honesty and efficiency. He has a plan to change both the party and the country.

So the CCM spin doctors contrast Magufuli with his opponent, Edward Lowassa, a CCM veteran who conspicuously benefited from his years in government and then crossed over to the opposition.

As Magufuli battles to be the candidate of change, the CCM is trying to present Lowassa as the bitter incumbent who was forced out by a reforming party. Many would reject such a narrative, certainly the claim that CCM is dead-set on reform. in recognition of the public's disaffection for the CCM, Magufuli appears at times to be campaigning separately from his party, even if he benefits from its nationwide reach and huge resources.

Magufuli is credible when he explains his plans for industrialisation, expansion of farm production, the winning of new export markets and the abolition of fees for primary and secondary schools.

Unlike Lowassa, Magufuli gets into policy specifics, pledging to cut costs so more Tanzanians can buy their own homes and to establish a special court to fast-track the prosecution of those accused of corruption.

Even if those kinds of policy points have not played a big role in the election campaign, Magufuli's promise of tough action to improve public services and to punish civil servants demanding bribes has struck a chord.

He is little-known among the CCM's grassroots members because he has never held a top position within the party hierarchy. Instead, Magufuli has concentrated on his academic career – his doctorate is in chemistry – and his work as a minister. here, he has overseen the biggest investments in publicly funded infrastructure since independence.

The contracts have not been tainted by corruption claims, and Magufuli and his wife live modestly. She is a primary school teacher and their children go to state schools.



Parselelo Kantai

Parselelo Kantai

Parselelo Kantai is the East and Horn of Africa editor of The Africa Report. He also writes for Africa Confidential and the Financial Times. He has been a Reuters Fellow and his fiction has twice been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing.

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