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Running a country

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John Magufuli has tantalised everyone with his unorthodox way of running an African country. He is not even two months old into the Tanzanian presidency but he has already earned himself rock-star fame for his no nonsense and serious approach to government business.

Magufuli doesn’t have time to caress people’s attitudes or claims of loyalty. He is on a swift mission to clean up Tanzania from the streets to the air-conditioned offices where corruption flourishes. He hasn’t hesitated to wield the axe on senior officials who were lax on their job or found out to be corrupt. Elsewhere, presidents fire people to replace them with those who will help steal government money to fund the ruling party.

Obviously, Magufuli is not making friends among the elite club of typical African leaders who are thinking this new boy in town is out to expose their dirty tricks. Even his nomination for the candidacy was not very good news for some people within his party, Chamu Cha Mapinduzi. Ex-Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, was not too happy and did not conceal it. He defected to the opposition to fight Magufuli at the polls. But Tanzanians were, as it is showing now, prudent to vote for Magufuli. They surely have a leader most of us are drooling over to make him our own.

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Interestingly, Magufuli was never a popular figure and was shut out of Chama Cha Chamapinduzi’s inner circle. He was more of a performing minister unlike some people who make their way up the echelons through attending party rallies more than making their ministries perform.

In this part of the world, most countries are in a state of arrested development because we do not have and like reformatory leaders. We always would want to reward party loyalists even when we know that all they do is slowing government progress and making it poor by evading tax since they know that they are protected by virtue of their party being in government.

A nation’s path to prosperity calls for prudent decisions like the one Tanzanians have made in electing Magufuli to be president. And some of these decisions always prick some raw nerves of some people—albeit temporarily—but eventually it is the nation that triumphs.

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Take, for instance, the public reforms the current government is championing here at home. Certainly, along the way, some people will not be happy because the reforms will shake and move them out of their comfort zone, some will be sent packing to their overdue retirement while some people will have all their connections to corruption cut out.

A good example is the change at the Department of Immigration and how that has affected people. A passport applicant now parts ways with K48,000 to get a passport while it was only K15,100 in the past. Now while the applicant will feel like he is paying an arm and a leg, the positive thing to it is that he will not be forced to be continuously bribing immigration officers to get a passport. In those days one had to queue days on end, endlessly grease the palms of immigration officials and by the end of the day, a passport would cost much more than it does now.

I am talking about the civil service reforms because firstly, that is the sole area that I think is being taken and managed seriously by the DPP government, secondly because I have a conviction that it is not only the civil service that needs reformation: we need a wholesale reformation as a country.

Recently, I was particularly impressed by the government’s talk about preparations for floods and the looming hunger that is estimated to hit about three million Malawians. Vice President, Saulos Chilima—he who is given the huge task to make sure that no Malawian dies of hunger and that floods should not catch us unawares as they did last time—gave an assuring statement of government’s precaution to disasters this time around.

Unlike earlier this year when the government was caught in deep sleep by the floods, now it has been prudent to prepare for the worse. Remarkably, for the first time in the history of this country, government has gone as far as procuring a drought insurance policy from the African Risk Capacity Insurance which ensures that if the 2015/16 farming season goes bad we will have a pay-out of $300 million which will be used to help those affected.

Government, we are told, has decided to act first by starting to uplift relief maize to prone areas as well as preparing the roads which otherwise become impassable when floods hit.

In Malawi, it is never common for a government to prepare for anything. Often, we are caught dosing and when disaster comes we get confused and become hopeless.

Look, even as we are saying now we haven’t recovered from the disaster that hit earlier this year since were taken by surprise.

This shift of government’s way of running things is amazing to say the least. We need to change the way we do thing in every area if Malawi is to start making sense. While Magufuli is whipping Tanzania into sobriety, here at home we need to borrow the revolutionary way of running a country.

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