Dar es Salaam. Save for pioneer President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was under no compulsion to sustain whatever tradition the departed colonial establishment pursued in crafting a Cabinet, his successors, except the latest, Fifth-Phase President John Magufuli, followed a more-or-less familiar pattern.
Mwalimu had successively been chief minister (1960), prime minister (1961), and president in 1962 ,when the then Tanganyika became a republic. Neither he, nor the 11 ministers in the first Cabinet, were products of a General Election.
The scenario has been radically different in respect of subsequent Heads of State, and more-so after Tanzania embraced a multi-party political system in 1992.
After the announcement of parliamentary election results, the nation becomes abuzz with speculations on who the president would pick as his prime minister – technically the right-hand person in managing public service affairs - as well as ministers.
The deputy ministerial role, generally perceived as incidental, doesn’t attract much excitement.
Next, debate, and in some cases bets, revolved around which members of the outgoing Cabinet who had bounced back as MPs would be retained, in current or new portfolios, and who would be locked out. Plus, who, amongst the crop of fresh entrants into Parliament, were potential Cabinet material, and, as gender sensitivity becomes consistently entrenched, who are potential lady ministers.
Within the Mwinyi-Mkapa-Kikwete contexts, each made his Cabinet public within two weeks after being sworn in. Magufuli’s has been a dramatic departure from the norm.
After his appointment, low-keyed Prime Minister Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa soon turned out to be a phenomenally efficient administrator who rhymes well with the no-nonsence, result-demanding, discipline-enforcement template of his boss. Wananchi expected to be informed of the rest of the team members after a few days.
Most people were puzzled, and even upset, that, the man whose slogan, ‘Hapa Kazi tu’ (Hard Work is What Matters Most), has gained wide acceptance, was keeping them in undue suspense by not forming a Cabinet.
Loudly and in hushed tones, they felt that, there was a void in government, arguing that, there was no way a two-some, President-Premier outfit represented that pillar (alternately known as the Executive) of the triumvirate whose other components are the Legislature and Judiciary.
The anxiety and frustration soon evaporated, and delightfully so, when, during the short, five-week ‘ministers-less’ period, the Magufuli-Majaliwa duo staged an unprecedented performance, focused on unearthing grand tax evasion scandals, sacking unethical executives, curbing wasteful expenditure, putting tax dodging companies on notice, and rekindling cohesive self-reliance spirit. This was evidenced by enthusiastic participation in cleanliness exercises on Wednesday’s Independence Day, in lieu of fiesta-oriented celebrations.
The general feeling has been that, two highly dedicated and tough people’s servants could suffice as drivers of government business. That, though, is an idealistic scenario that can’t be indefinite.
A Cabinet is pertinent, but Dr Magufuli wasn’t in a hurry to form one. Accusations of presumed delay in doing so was off-point, for, while the constitution compels an in-coming president to name a prime minister within 14 days, it is silent on the ministers.
It is apparent that, he sought to be incisive in assessing the suitability or otherwise of various individuals, on criteria like academic credentials, professional competence, work experience, social character, dedication, honesty and patriotic spirit.
It is a safe guess that, the last three are the most critical, because, if they don’t blend neatly with the preceding three, an individual can – and this has been quite manifest – manipulate a ministerial portfolio as a springboard for personal and family economic prosperity as part of corruption networks.
It’s no wonder, indeed, that, for most part, especially in the post-Nyerere era, politics has considerably become a money-minting, influence-peddling and ego-polishing industry. Fierce legislative election battles stem mainly from the desperation to secure Cabinet slots as openings to financial and material gain, as well as influence enhancement.
Dr Magufuli, whose nick-names include the bulldozer, hoe and pepper, and who has self-assigned himself the role of piercing the metaphorical boils of corruption and other vices, is determined to put a definitive stop to that culture.
Hence, the toothcomb approach in Cabinet formation, in terms of figures and appointees, focused on saving costs and maximising benefits. He has roughly halved the figure (combining ministers and deputies) from 60 that Mr Kikwete started with to 34.Figures of previous cabinets are: Nyerere (11), Mwinyi (28) and Mkapa (37).
Factors like population expansion and grappling with the dynamics of globalisation don’t, on their own, warrant a populated, highly costly Cabinet. Hence the rationale of grouping a wider set of sectors like works, transport, communications, foreign relations, science, technology and vocational training, parliament, policy, labour, youth, employment and the physically disabled, under specific, narrower umbrellas, instead of scattering them in several fully independent dockets.
Here-in also most likely lies the explanation for suspension of naming ministers for critical finance and infrastructure dockets. He’s certainly scouting around for suitable candidates, to avoid embarrassing regret, if he ended up with under-performers or wheeler-dealers.
The new line-up includes personalities with an impressive record, such as Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, Mr William Lukuvi, and previously deputy minister Mwigulu Nchemba. Fresh entrants like Dr Augustine Mahiga, a polished diplomat and distinguished intellectual, and lesser known ones, are nonetheless people whom wananchi can bank on, having, as it were, passed Magufuli’s microscopic test. From November 5 up to yesterday, the government train’s locomotive engine was being warmed up. Its now set in full-scale motion.
Mr Wilson Kaigarula is a sub-editor, The Citizen