Development is for and of people; it cannot be inflicted on people

Thursday April 29 2021
John Pombe Magufuli.

John Pombe Magufuli. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Dear Julius,

I thank you for your views about how I have been writing about the late John Pombe Magufuli, and I think your views are not only sound but also shared by many people in Tanzania and Kenya, and even beyond.

Please understand me. I don't intend to claim JPM did nothing good. I would be blind and deaf if I did.

All I'm saying, as with any one of his predecessors, is that a lot of what every elected official claims to have achieved usually falls within the purview of what he asked his people to allow him to do and, in most cases, what he is charged with doing constitutionally.

But, think about this: If you employ a gardener to set up your orchard and he does a good job of it, is that a reason for not reprimanding him if in so doing he runs your water bill through the roof, or he demolishes part of your house, or plants some shrubs you have no interest in, or tells you to shut up while he is working because you are disturbing him? Think about it.

Tanzania is a nation in the making; it is not a construction site. The type of building she needs is that of an ethos of love, solidarity and empathy, not that of a bulldozer. Our people are not granite, iron bars and aggregates. They deserve to be treated with empathy, to be listened to and consulted continually.


‘Development’ speaks to the amelioration of the lives of the people, and as such it cannot be inflicted on a people, or it will be rejected. Concrete structures will crumble with time, but the human spirit, carefully nurtured and nourished, will survive the test of time.

Ethiopia has built much more than Tanzania has. She has a more modern infrastructure than the one JPM has left behind, thanks to the efforts started by Meles Zenawi.

But hundreds of Ethiopian youths are suffocating week in week out, in false bottoms of lorries headed to South Africa or in dingy boats crossing the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. They had better die trying to get to South Africa or Europe than enjoy the beautiful railways and road interchanges that offer neither jobs nor freedom. That is the very definition of ‘white elephant.’

Let me ask you a couple of things about the projects you laud so much: Supposing all these projects were really great, and even supposing they did not include Air Tanzania, which is stillborn, are they in any way worth the wanton killing of innocent Tanzanians? Was Azory Gwanda the price we were supposed to pay for this type of bizarre 'development'? Or Akwilina? Or Ben Sanane? Or The sixteen bullets that hit Tundu Lissu while he was attending parliament?

Was the price of this 'development' to be measured in the zombification of parliament, the neutering of the Press, the killing of the still fragile systems of accountability and the imposition of a culture of opacity wherein the president became the chief procurement authority?

For your information, JPM became the chief procurement authority for Air Tanzania, for which he boasted that he bought new planes ‘cash’, which is considered lunacy in the industry.

Was the right price for this 'paradise' the silencing of any voice of dissent, the proliferation of trumped-up charges against government critics and the turning of the Judiciary into a pack of lap dogs?

It is most strange that the man who claimed to fight corruption should be the same man who fought transparency and promoted opacity in governance structures, such as parliament, the office of the controller-and-auditor general, and the Press. For anyone who is determined to fight corruption these should be the first-line allies and partners, but Magufuli saw them as enemies.

There is a simple rule of thumb here: Greater transparency, less corruption; Greater opacity, more corruption. That is the way our rulers must be judged. I am not superstitious, and do not believe that one man can single-handedly fight corruption.

By moving operations of the airline to his office he was making sure there was the most limited oversight over what he was doing. No wonder now the controller and auditor general is telling us that once again, we have been took!

You state that maybe the man had too much self-confidence. I may agree with that, only adding that this kind of self-belief borders on the delusionary, and may suggest a difficulty in relating to reality as lived by ordinary mortals, which should call into question our ability to lead others.

I will grant that Magufuli was passionate about building structures, but in my heart of hearts I cannot agree that this was his role as top leader of his people; he chose the wrong things to build, and ended up looking like a site foreman rather than a builder of a national ethos.

You allowed me to share this conversation with the readers of The EastAfrican, which I have done without divulging your full name.


Jenerali Ulimwengu is now on YouTube via jeneralionline tv. E-mail: [email protected]