Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere is a man celebrated for his ideas of communism and creation of economies that service all citizens without a bias. He is a part of the generation of firebrand socialist leaders who felt capitalism was not the best economic model to adopt if Africa was to succeed. That is a debate for another day since socialism itself is not perfect but what the world can be certain of is that Mwalimu’s ideas were meant to benefit his people. Knowing that his ideas would probably wither away with time, he said, “There are many good and honest people who believe that these ideas which in this country are associated with my name are now dead and should be properly buried. You will be surprised to hear that I disagree. Great ideas do not die so easily; they continue nagging and every human society in history ignores them at its own peril. And I can say this without inhibition or pretended modesty because in a very real sense they are not my ideas. I never invented them. I am simply a believer, like any other believers in the world and in human history…”
Nyerere must have been hoping for other believers in his country, leaders who would gladly take the baton and run their portion of the relay. Though Magufuli might not be going for the radical socialism Nyerere advocated for, he sure is fusing the unavoidable capitalism with a lot of socialist ideas Mwalimu would have approved of.
The new face of Nyerere’s “ujamaa”
Mwalimu Nyerere is famous (or infamous in some circles) for introducing the ujamaa in the Arusha Declaration of 5 February 1967 which were aimed to collect people into villages where they would have better access to education and medical services. Ujamaa is Swahili for familyhood and that was precisely what the policy was imposing on the people; the spirit of family. It was centred on collective agriculture but also went as far as calling for nationalisation of industry and at the end of the day, self-reliance. This same spirit has influenced President John Pompe Magufuli’s policy stance which as Michelle DeFreese, a consultant with the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in Tanzania, accurately says, “…aims to enable intra-regional trade, capitalize on the nation’s natural resources and facilitate increased industrialisation.”
Magufuli’s approach has mainly been to improve transport and trade links between his country and its neighbours. In line with this goal, the country recently saw a 31% budget increase. The ambitious Uganda-Tanga oil pipeline is also a sign of Magufuli’s mind for regional growth.
The true “Mr Clean”
When President Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s second term as leader of Tanzania came to an end, Mwalimu Nyerere participated in the process of getting a new leader. He helped the country get its next leader but only after discussing what he thought this new leader was supposed to do. His standards were pretty high but he had faith his country would be able to produce such a leader. When Benjamin Mkapa became CCM’s presidential candidate, Mwalimu went around the country calling him Mr Clean who would lead a war against corruption. The Citizen, a Tanzanian publication however says that very Mr Clean “left the country under the same scourge of corruption and high embezzlement almost in all sectors”. If Mkapa with that soiled legacy was a Mr Clean in his own right, what then can be said of Magufuli who was recently praised by the African Development Bank for his fight against corruption? The AfDB Vice President’s words were, “We commend the efforts that you have started with in building the nation’s economy, especially in fighting graft and improving domestic revenue.” What can Magufuli be called for his unapologetic stance against corruption? Can he be called Mr Cleaner to attest to his better effectiveness than Mkapa? Maybe his own name, “The Bulldozer” is just fine. This is the true Mr Clean Mwalimu hoped for.
Like Nyerere, Magufuli has a goal of making life easier for the poor. On his campaign trail, he once said, “Our home was grass thatched and like many boys, I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family. I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people’s welfare.” The citizens know it too. One Othman Gendaiki a 76 year old Tanzanian confirmed to the Financial Times, “All over the world, people speak about Magufuli. To break the chains of poverty. That’s what he’s trying to do.” Mwalimu would be proud.