When Tanzania’s President John Magufuli Pombe, popularly known as The Bulldozer came into power in 2015, he, in an unprecedented manner shook the whole of Tanzania with his uncompromising leadership style. Magufuli, became the prototype of what an African leader should be. Incompetent civil servants, and corrupt high ranking public officials were sacked, redefining the country’s public service.
In June, Tanzania’s former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, called for an extension of Magufuli’s tenure. Mwinyi who served as president between 1985 and 1995 said, “If it wasn’t for term limits, I would have suggested that Magufuli should be our president for eternity.”
Unlike his counterpart in Rwanda, Paul Kagame who was recently voted in to power after the constitution was altered by a referendum which supported his stay in power to possibly 2034, Magufuli in response to calls for him to rule for a longer period than two terms has declined the offer. Magufuli said, “I have sworn to defend the constitution … I shall play my part and pass on the leadership reins to the next president when the time comes.”
Tanzania and Rwanda are two different countries and not necessarily logical to compare the experiences of the two countries which demand different approaches to leadership. Magufuli’s stance goes against the grain in a continent where most leaders change their respective country’s constitution to cling on to power.
A member of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) had suggested that Magufuli should continue leading for 20 years, an offer Magufuli vehemently rejected while addressing a public rally, “it’s impossible. I’ll respect the constitution.”
Leadership on the continent is many times styled against Western countries. Critiques are quick to pounce on African leaders for extending their tenures in power even when the extensions are done constitutionally. Countries face different challenges, and therefore should be judged according to the specific geo-political conditions prevalent. If Magufuli decides to change his mind and accept the calls from people, it will ignite another interesting debate on notions of democracy and term limits in Africa.
If democracy is a government of the majority, then that’s the game many African leaders are playing.
There is no doubt that young leaders should be groomed and given the space to grow so that the endless problem of leadership on the continent is dealt with. But for now, Magufuli and Kagame have their roles clearly defined.