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Tanzania, a country that built its reputation on self-reliance policies adopted in the 1967 Arusha Declaration, famously known as “Ujamaa”, may soon be crossing the bridge to “Majimboism”, unprepared.
Following his arrival into State House in 2015, the East African country’s President, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, has shown a tendency of making appointments of people from the Lake Zone to critical ministries and economic sectors in the country. Corresponding to these appointments, the Head of State has also embarked on improving infrastructures in Chato District, where he hails from.
Shortly after assuming office as the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, known as the “Bulldozer”, commenced the construction of Chato Airport in 2017, which will cost a resounding Tzs. 39 Billion of up to completion. In 2018, the president approved the upgrade of five Game Reserves to become National Parks. One of these Game Reserves is Burigi, in Chato District, which is recently undergoing wildlife transfer as part of making it a proper National Park.
Of concern to most sustainable development proponents at the national level, is the move to construct a mega airport in his home District – Chato. This was described as “unrealistic” by the Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure. The Committee lamented the fact that “only five out of 58 airports and airstrips in the country contribute to the national gross domestic production […] and are poorly maintained” to attract more business. Since then, questions on the rationale to start new finance intensive projects while there are existing projects in need of upgrade are awash in the country.
It suffices to point out that for Dr. Magufuli, taking development to his home district is not new. While serving as the Minister of Works (2000 – 2006), Dr. Magufuli is said to have diverted road upgrade project meant for Busisi to Biharamulo and implemented the project by upgrading Busisi to Chato road to tarmac.
One of the most surprising trends is that all this is being done under the umbrella of what is known as capitalising revenues to bolster economic growth and improve livelihoods among the citizenry.
While discussions on national economic growth is at the centre of everything that is being done by the fifth phase government in the United Republic of Tanzania, less attention is being paid to the looming Majimboism. This lack of attention is mainly seen within what is now known in Tanzania as “Cheer Leading” group – top calibre thought leaders in the current government and the ruling party’s cadres.
Members of the general public, especially the youth in the country have a different view. The majority of Tanzanian’s see this as a selfish move that has not been shown by any leader in the history Tanzania as a country. The trend is also shedding fear within the citizenry, with uncertainties on how long the peaceful coexistence that has prevailed in the country for decades will last. Optimists on the other end wonder whether the development being taken to Chato would be used as a future benchmark of what focus in developing an isolated area can mean to national economic growth. Others are asking why such resources should not be used to develop the Capital City – Dodoma, which remains undeveloped since its Capital City declaration in the 1980s.
Borrowing from a country like Kenya, where Majimboism started right at independence, this political system, which refers to a devolution of political power, did not work. Actually, in Kenya, during political campaigns, when the term “Majimbo” comes up, violence is detected. Political analysts suggest that the earlier misunderstandings of Majimboism as a political thought is what caused politically inclined ethnic violence that has characterised the Kenyan political landscape for decades.
The recent discussions within the Kenyan political landscape, in pursuit of coexistence after many years of politically inclined ethnic clashes suggest that, Majimboism as a political system could be a socio-political and economic panacea, if well understood, managed and implemented.
The approach adopted by Dr. Magufuli, in his Majimbo-like leadership is raising concern due to ad-hoc implementation style – with no planning or systematic and cohesive implementation roadmap. For laypeople and experts alike, Tanzania is bracing for the unknown future, while its Head of State focuses on making Chato visible to the world.