Typically, my yearly term in the States lasts from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, but this year I will extend to just after Christmas in order to see my good friend (and fellow Moshian) Shay Bell in her home state of Florida before we both head back to the Motherland....
Still, that doesn't mean "outta sight outta mind" - obviously, since I have been in New York, I have been thinking about Toa Nafasi constantly: fundraising, administrating, and networking.
Now, I am starting to figure out the lay of the land for when I get back - how we'll start the new year in Msaranga, prepare the additional schools for our infiltration, and resign myself to enduring the frustrations of living and working in a developing country. (That last one has typically been a bit of a challenge for me!)
One big change for all of us living in Tanzania is that we have a new president! I blogged in October about the political campaigns of the various players, but now that it's all over and the dust has settled, John Magufuli has defeated Edward Lowassa to become the fifth president of the United Republic of Tanzania.
It's unclear as yet how this new guy will affect the daily lives of his constituents, but I gotta say Johnny Pombe might be my new hero! If he's serious about what he's saying as per the article below from The Citizen, I think I might actually be down to get down with a Tanzanian politician - cue up the flying pigs here. He seems to be inclined to cut down on the crap and beef up the beneficial. I know it's still early going, but let me be cautiously optimistic and say, Hongera sana, Bwana Rais! (Many congrats, Mr. President!)
Magufuli Demonstrates He's Not a Joker, Means Business
Public servants have been put on notice: change and serve the people or go. Only three weeks after being sworn in, President John Magufuli has already made clear that when he preached 'work and nothing else' in his campaigns, he meant it.
Though heads have not yet started rolling, the directives which he has given in his first three weeks in office have sent a clear message that the 'business as usual' syndrome will not be tolerated by Dr. Magufuli's government. And for people who think that it is those politicians from the opposition party who are going to suffer from the new no-nonsense head of the state, indications show that the first culprits of Dr. Magufuli's quest for change will be those working in his government.
For one thing, Dr. Magufuli has already indicated that he will not entertain spendthrift government. His decision to cut foreign travel by public officials except with permission from his office, as well as the slashing of the parliamentary 'cocktail budget,' has clearly shown what he meant by 'cost-cutting measures.'
Dr. Magufuli reinforced his message in his inauguration speech in which he outlined what he intends to do in the next five years. In the speech, Dr. Magufuli showed the challenges which the country faces, but he went further to draw a road-map showing how the government will tackle the problems.
Dr. Magufuli listed corruption as the first problem which he encountered during election campaigns. He told the Parliament that in all the areas where he went during campaigns, corruption topped the list of people's complaints.
He also said citizens are dissatisfied with the performance of the Local Government Authorities (LGAs). Areas which he cited as most wanting in LGAs' performance include revenue loss, failure to collect revenue, misappropriation of public resources, and poor implementation of some development projects.
On issues pertaining to land, Dr. Magufuli said conflicts between farmers and pastoralists should be resolved, the double allocation of plots should be stopped, people who horde large lands which they have not developed should start to think on how they are going to develop the land, municipal authorities and councils should start implementing land plans immediately, and people who have invaded open-spaced and other reserved areas should start parking now. In fact, in Dar es Salaam, demolition of houses built on open spaces has already started and television footage has shown some of the posher houses being pulled down with their owners witnessing. This could not be imagined in the past regime.
The Head of State also indicated that he wants to see corruption, theft, and bureaucracy at the port become issue of the past.
Dr. Magufuli has also put the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) on notice. In his speech he said TRA should find solutions to thorny issues including tax evasion, corruption among its officials, bureaucracy, and revenue loss to list but a few. He indicated that his government would not tolerate any TRA official who will impede government resolve to collect enough revenue, especially from large businessmen.
The power utility firm, Tanesco, was also given a task to ensure that intermittent power cuts be addressed and power rationing should come to an end.
Noting that some government officials participate in poaching, Dr. Magufuli asked the Tourism and Natural Resource docket to find lasting solutions to the problem which has tarnished the image of the country abroad.
"How come elephant tusks are impounded in China or Europe while they passed at the port of Dar es Salaam? Something should be done to make sure that this situation does not recur," he said. But he also asked the docket to address perennial conflicts between villagers and national parks and forest reserves concerning revenue loss.
On health services, Dr. Magufuli told Parliamentarians that the government would do everything possible to make sure that health services are made available in all villages in order to reduce congestion in the few existing health facilities. He also said it is his resolve to ensure that cost-sharing is moderated so as to remove all unnecessary contributions which patients have to make. One solution he proposed is ensuring that all people are enrolled in health insurance schemes. This will also address the problem of the shortage of drugs in public health facilities.
Immigration is also on the President's radar. He said that the haphazard issuing of work permits should come to an end, and the department should also be prudent in issuing residency permits and closely follow what the foreigners who have been granted work permits are doing. He said he wants to end the trend where foreigners have been engaged in activities which locals could handle easily.
On education, Dr. Magufuli said it is his dream to see that the government addresses notorious problems in the sector such as the shortage of learning and teaching materials, removal of unnecessary contributions for guardians and parents, unending teachers' complaints, poor learning environments, and lack of teacher houses and others.
He said that he recognizes efforts taken by the Judiciary to address problems under its area. But, he said more needs to be done to ensure that cases are heard quickly.
On mining, he said his government would make sure that locals benefit more from Tanzania's God-given resources by - among other things - ensuring that small-scale miners are allocated areas for their activities and they are facilitated with equipment and markets.
Generally, Dr. Magufuli showed that his government is ready to work together with other stakeholders to realize his government's dreams. And the way he has been executing his duties, Dr. Magufuli has started to endear himself to many people, earning accolades from even some of the opposition politicians who were critical of him during the campaigns.
Kigoma Urban MP, Mr. Zitto Kabwe is one of the opposition politicians who have bought into Dr. Magufuli's promises in tackling corruption, especially at higher levels. The ACT-Wazalendo national leader says he has decided to support Dr. Magufuli on those issues because in the last ten years, the country has been rocked by a number of grand corruption scandals.
"Therefore, it is only logical to support someone who has shown determination to deal with that situation," says Mr. Zitto adding, "We have built a strong opposition based on a grand corruption agenda. Now we have a president who has decided to join us in this crusade. Why should we oppose him?"
Mr. Ramadhani Dau, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) director, is one of the people who have been elated by Dr. Magufuli's speech in the Parliament. He said that for years the NSSF has been working together with the government in the improvement of social services.
"We are now more than ready to work in assisting the government to achieve its dream of reviving and strengthening industries in the country. We are ready to venture into this area with the government because we believe that industrialization would solve several problems facing the country currently," he said.
It is now clear to everyone what the fifth phase of Tanzanian government wants to do to advance the country and improve people's lives. The problem at hand is whether Dr. Magufuli will have competent and committed people to assist him carry out this responsibility.
For the targets to be achieved, there is one major obstacle which the country needs to overcome and that is the mindsets of most Tanzanians. Over the years, Tanzanians have been molded into a certain type of social-political-communal mode of living. The public service has also not been spared in that trend.
Looking at what Dr. Magufuli wants the government to achieve and the way he wants it to do that, and his hint that he would need a lean cabinet, it points to one obvious thing. He will need a team of people who are ready and able to do things differently. A minister who only relies on what has been written in books when dealing with emerging problems will not fit into Dr. Magufuli's plans.