ZIMBABWEANS must be casting envious glances at Tanzania where, like a breath of fresh air, President John Magufuli has broken from the African leader mould to win the hearts of many on the continent and beyond.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
The hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo has been trending on Twitter.
Hitting the ground running after a low-profile inauguration — on his insistence — last November, Magufuli has shown that he is prepared to roll his sleeves high up and get his hands dirty in an effort to usher a new era of hands-on and progressive leadership.
This has seen him tackle issues head-on from day one through strategies that include the unconventional, as he thinks outside the box to improve the living standards of one of the poorest countries in the world where economic gains have failed to trickle down to the majority.
This has seen him introduce a swathe of austerity cuts and crackdowns on public corruption, as he battles profligacy, graft and inefficiency — Zimbabwe’s nemeses.
Among his interventions has been cutting the budget for celebrating his inauguration and opening of parliament from US$100 000 US$7 000 so that the difference goes towards health delivery; banning public officials from unnecessary foreign travel; cancelling Independence day celebrations and instead ordering a clean-up campaign, which he led, to fight the spread of cholera.
Some of these actions would be unimaginable in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe is a not-so-hands-on leader who cuts an aloof figure. He spent much of the year on costly foreign junkets, accompanied by bloated delegations at an unsustainable cost to a bankrupt Treasury.
Certainly, the political elite that revels in a life of entitlement mostly due to liberation war credentials while the majority wallow in poverty, would be apoplectic at such measures. Of course, the likes of Elton Mangoma, David Coltart and Kwekwe mayor Matenda Madzoke are notable exceptions as they have resisted the trappings of public office.
Magufuli looks set to transform Tanzania much in the same way leadership in the likes of Rwanda, Ghana, the Ivory Coast and neighbouring Botswana and Mozambique, has lent credence to the Africa Rising narrative.
Yet in poverty-stricken Zimbabwe we had over US$1,2 million splurged on Mugabe’s birthday bash, with eight cakes baked for the function and many beasts killed. There will be similar festivities for about 4 500 delegates at the US$3 million Zanu PF conference — read talk fest — starting today, under the patently deceitful theme “Consolidating People’s Power Through ZimAsset”.
After the orgy of food and drink, sloganeering, solidarity messages, singing and dancing, and Mugabe deification, the majority of party cadres will return to the real world of joblessness and the daily grind of ekeing out a living in an imploding economy, while Mugabe and his ministers live large.
The chefs will return to a surreal world of mansions and ostentatious government vehicles that are the envy of even CEOs in the private sector.