One year without Magufuli: Did Samia make a clean break from Magufuli’s controversial rule?

One year without Magufuli: Did Samia make a clean break from Magufuli’s controversial rule?

The then vice-president, an incumbent President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, broke the news on the live TV broadcast that tore the hearts of millions of Tanzanias and Africans at large. 

“Our beloved President passed on at 6 p.m. this evening. All flags will be flown at half-mast for 14 days. It is sad news. The president has had this illness for the past 10 years.” – President Samia announced in a live television address on March 17, 2021.

Magufuli kicked the bucked in the first year of his second term, leaving a five-year legacy of his controversial leadership that earned him names such as bulldozer, jiwe (stone), saviour, and many symbolic names that carried his personality and attitude. He leaves behind a composite legacy in his short time as Tanzanian president.

On March 19, 2021, two days after the decline of Magufuli, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Magufuli’s vice-president, was sworn in as the president of the United Republic of Tanzania and the first female president of Tanzania since the country’s independence of 1961.

On March 19, 2022, Samia will mark her first anniversary in office. As clear as day, a lot has changed since she took hold of the wheel. In her speech soon after Magufuli’s burial at his family’s plot in Chato Geita, president Samia pledged before the attended crowd to continue where her successor had left.

“We will work hard to complete what Magufuli had started, in bringing development to the people. You should not worry at all about Magufuli’s promises. Let us all show our unity and love now as we move forward the nation.” – President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Looking back at those words, did she live by her words? or what did she mean to have said so? Keeping authoritarianism an order of the day or continuing to lay bricks on massive infrastructures that her predecessor left incomplete? Or took a different path that redefined Tanzania’s politics?

Here is the list of five things President Samia has done that seems to attempt to break from Magufuli’s legacy.

COVID-19 vaccination campaign 

This news caught everyone off-guard as none could have expected so quickly that Samia would embark on the path she once rebuked earlier during heydays of her predecessor’s rule. 

Soon after Magufuli died in March, Samia set up a task force on coronavirus and subsequently launched the vaccination campaign by taking the first jab in a live TV broadcast. Getting her jab, President Samia said: “We are not an island, and that is why now we are starting vaccination.”

Economic nationalism to embracing Multilateralism 

In May 2017, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli declared ‘economic warfare’ on foreign mining companies, which he accused of draining the country’s mineral wealth. 

Subsequently, laws amendment to restate the country’s sovereignty over its natural resources led to the renegotiation of new contracts. This act almost annihilated the confidence of investors and kept them away. 

Soon after Samia assumed office, she pledged to rebuild the economy to produce long-term and more widely-shared growth. 

In her maiden speech to Parliament articulated the need for the government to regain investors’ confidence. 

Samia’s government has been active in inviting new investors, creating a friendly taxation system, and reducing bureaucracy in issuing work permits and approval of investment projects.

One year down the line, economists described the period as a “course of correction” with more hopes. The economist from the University of Dar es Salaam, Dr Abel Kinyondo, said President Hassan lives the economic diplomacy concept.

Trips to abroad

In this first week in office in November 2015, Magufuli kept a noose to foreign travel to public servants and himself. In case of emergency, approval could be granted by Mr Magufuli or the head of civil service, he said.  

The central bank report in 2017 revealed that the government had saved $430m, limiting foreign travel between November 2015 – November 2016. He has only toured five African countries during his presidency, i.e. Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya (2016), Ethiopia, Uganda (2017), Uganda (2018), Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia (2019. 

Contrarily, in her first year into office, President Samia has made 11 foreign trips. President Samia has often accompanied with an entourage of some key cabinet members on her foreign travels. 

Samia’s overseas trips opened a channel for Tanzania to draw in a chunk of funds, including grants, aid and loans that have massively boosted the economy. Samia’s foreign trips have witnessed the restoration of several bilateral and multilateral relations inflicted during Magufuli’s era. 

From loans, grants and aid, Tanzania has gained a sum of Sh. 20 trillion, including unlocking funds suspended due to despotic rule during the Magufuli reign. 

Lift ban on teen mothers

Magufuli took a stern approach to teen mothers during his presidency. The move saw a volley of criticism from domestic and international activists directed toward his government that prompted the suspension of funds by international organizations such as the World Bank. 

Following Magufuli’s death in 2021, his successor Samia Suluhu Hassan has sought to break away from some of his policies. In November 2021, Education Minister Joyce Ndalichako said that “pregnant school girls will be allowed to continue formal education after delivery”.

President Samia’s decision to lift her predecessor’s controversial ban on teen mothers has restored the hopes of teen mothers and restored once distorted county’s reputation. 

Press Freedom and Political reconciliation 

Magufuli’s government was characterized by an increase in cracking down on media and suppressing freedom of expression. He also narrowed the civil space by imposing severe censorship of newspapers and banning several radio stations that often criticized his presidency. 

Since President Samia took office, she has made a radical shift in media policy. “I have heard there are media that were banned. Reopen them; we should not give them room to say we are shrinking press freedom,” the president told officials at the State House in Dar es Salaam on April 6, 2021. 

Also, the government of President Samia Hassan issued new publishing licences on newspapers Mwanahalisi, Mawio, Mseto, and Tanzania Daima. Opposition leader Freeman Mbowe owns the latter. Speaking during a meeting with editors Minister of Information Nape Nnauye said the papers’ licenses were restored on the orders of Hassan as part of her promise to uphold press freedom.

Has Samia done enough to clear all the mess?

Samia had taken some bold moves that derailed from some of Magufuli’s senseless policies, actions that had her pick enemies from her predecessor’s loyalists lurking within the party and the government. 

Activists from within Tanzania and international organizations still find gaps in Samia’s leadership that reflect Magufuli’s legacy. Human rights activists decry the suppression of civic places, citing to banning of political rallies and limited freedom of expression. 

New Constitution and Free electoral committee have dominated political discussion across social media, piling up massive pressure on president Hassan’s government to consider them as the country’s priorities.

However, analysts are optimistic about President Hassan’s government regarding the courageous efforts she has been taking to reconcile the country’s political environment. 

Her move of meeting with a prolific oppositional leader signals the beginning of new Tanzania formed under formidable democratic principles that would spur sustainable economic development. But we should all agree that Samia has done a lot to escape the haunting legacy of her predecessor, yet more work remains is to be done.