John Magufuli can be quite adept at making some reckless statements. He has said that couples must not use birth control, insisting that birth control is for "lazy people". He has advised against couples using contraceptive methods, saying that the country needs more people.
"Those going for family planning are lazy ... they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only," he said at a public rally in Meatu on Sunday. Magufuli stressed that it was "important to reproduce" and said Tanzanians must not listen to any other advice from outside.
"I have travelled to Europe and elsewhere and have seen the harmful effects of birth control. Some countries are now facing declining population growth. They are short on manpower," he was quoted as saying by The Citizen publication.
"You have cattle. You are big farmers. You can feed your children. Why then resort to birth control?" he asked. "This is my opinion, I see no reason to control births in Tanzania".
His rationale is that there is a declining workforce in Europe and he is suggesting that this is a situation he will not be pleased with should it affect Tanzania. But the fact is that there is poverty in Tanzania and most of the couples cannot afford to have many children as it puts a strain on their scarce resources. John Magufuli has two children only.
His statements have attracted some sharp criticism from some of the country's legislators. Cecil Mwambe, an MP, said that the country's health insurance scheme can only accommodate a maximum of four children from one family. In essence, Magufuli's statements are not consistent with national policy.
However, Speaker of Parliament Job Ndugai said that the President's statements did not reflect any government position or policy since they were only advisory in nature.
One thing that Magufuli is missing is that it is the right of anyone to use contraceptive methods. Taking it from the African context where women are in a disadvantaged position in society, it becomes all the more important for them to be able to access and use birth control methods. Women bear the burden of many children.
Africa is having a population boom that will put pressure on governments in the near future. The United Nations has predicted that Africa's population will double to around 2.5 billion people by 2050. In light of this, the President should be making wise statements.
Header Image Credit: Sadi Said/Reuters