Magufuli the African giant- A peasant's son who became President

Thursday March 18 2021
By William Shao

Dar es Salaam. In every human society, the birth of a child is a matter of joy and cause for celebration. That is what happened on Thursday, October 29, 1959 in Katona District, Bugando Ward, Nzela Division, Geita District, when John ‘Walwa’ Joseph Magufuli was born.

Among those who witnessed his birth, no one could have ever imaged that 56 years later, this son of a peasant would become President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence and Security Forces.

His parents--Magufuli Marco Nyahinga and Suzana Musa--between 1960 and 1961 decided to cross Lake Victoria from Katoma Nkome, Geita District, Mwanza Region at that time, to Lubambangwe Village, Chato, Biharamulo District, Kagera Region at that time, seeking economic opportunities.

The administrative changes made in 2012, annexed Chato from Kagera Region and helped to create a new region, Geita, after the government established four new regions and 19 districts. The announcement of the establishment of those regions and districts was signed by President Jakaya Kikwete on March 1, 2012.

Author Mathias Kabadi describes John Magufuli’s family as: “a very common family of farmers and pastoralists”.


Regarding the name ‘Magufuli’, the author explains that on the day John Magufuli was born, his maternal grandmother called him “Walwa” because on that day at the grandmother’s house there was a brewing celebrations going on. The Sukuma call the celebration mapuya or shidugugu.

John Pombe Magufuli started his primary education at Chato School in 1967 and graduated in 1974.

He was selected to join Katoke Seminary in Biharamulo, where he studied first and second forms in 1975 - 1976, and later moved to Lake Secondary School, located in Mwanza, where he studied forms three and four (1977 - 1978).

This is according to the official government Website.

After completing his Ordinary Level of Secondary Education, John Magufuli was selected to join Form Five at Mkwawa Secondary School in Iringa Region, between 1979 and 1981.

From 1981 and 1982, he joined the Mkwawa Teachers College also in Iringa, to study for a Diploma in Education of Science, specializing in Chemistry, Mathematics and Education.

Immediately after graduating from Mkwawa College, he started teaching at Sengerema Secondary School. He taught Chemistry and Mathematics. He did so from 1982 to 1983 before he joined National Service (JKT) under the compulsory arrangement as per the laws of the land. He was posted to Makutupora Camp in Dodoma, from July to December 1983.


Later from January 1984, he was posted to Makuyuni Military Camp in Arusha Region, where he served until the end of his military training.

According to some of the participants in the JKT training, Magufuli was a dedicated and hardworking man.

“He was always a hard worker,” says Hassani (Not his real name) and added: “In 1985, he joined the University of Dar es Salaam to study for a Bachelor of Science in Education specializing in Chemistry and Mathematics. He graduated from the university in 1988.”

Documentary evidence shows that between 1989 and 1995, he worked in a factory owned by the Nyanza Cooperative Union as a chemist.

It was during this period that he started pursuing a master’s degree of science at the University of Salford, UK, (in a programme run under collaboration with the University of Dar es Salaam) between 1991 and 1994.

Magu-g PIC

He later went on to pursue his doctorate degree (PhD) in Chemistry at the University of Dar es Salaam, which he studied while pursuing other responsibilities in government and graduated in 2009.

Some voters in his constituency believed Dr Magufuli did not dream of becoming a politician until he was persuaded by a few elders to vie for the position of a lawmaker.

Mwananchi newspaper issue number 5464 of Saturday, July 11, 2015 wrote: “Elder Emmanuel Francis remembers the youthful life of Magufuli, ‘Elders sat down and saw him as the highest level of scholar who could deliver us. We have been following him since he was a teacher at Sengerema Secondary School and even when he was a chemist at the cotton company”.

He says Magufuli did not disappoint them. He agreed to run for the seat against Phares Kabuye (now deceased). Although the results did not quench their thirst, the candidate himself, Magufuli, accepted it.”


That was in the October 1990 General Election.

“Magufuli’s handshake and congratulations to his rival surprised many citizens and they saw him as a young man without resentment.”

Mr Francis claimed that the reason that caused Magufuli not to sail through in the 1990 election, even if it was meaningless, was wearing of sunglasses. He said that denied him votes as some voters believed that the sunglasses were for those who thought they were above others.

“Some people seeing this young man who likes to wear sunglasses said ‘such a man would completely forget about us’,” said Mr Emmanuel Francis in the article quoted above.

After losing in the 1990 General Election, Magufuli did not give up. In 1995 he again ran for the Chato seat (then Biharamulo East), running for Parliament on a CCM ticket and won.

Third Term President Benjamin William Mkapa appointed John Magufuli as the Deputy Minister for Works in his first term in Parliament.

Due to an impressive performance he did in his constituency and in government, in the 2005 General Elections, Magufuli was one of the few unopposed MPs in his constituency.


Fourth Phase President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete appointed him Minister of Lands, Housing and Settlements Development.

Dr John Magufuli started the race for the presidency of the United Republic of Tanzania, on Thursday, June 4, 2015, when he collected the forms to vie for nomination through Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).

After a tumultuous process, Dr Magufuli entered the top five in the shortlist that fielded the other 33 candidates, and finally entered the top three before emerging as a presidential candidate on the CCM ticket and was eventually elected as the Fifth Term President of the United Republic of Tanzania.

Some foreign media outlets had this to say about him yesterday: On the very first day of his presidency, he sent a stark message that he would not tolerate the country’s chronic absenteeism in its civil service, when he visited the finance ministry offices, asking for the whereabouts of those not at work.

He also purged thousands of so-called “ghost workers” - essentially non-existent employees - from the public payroll, and fired officials considered corrupt or under-performing, in public. Sometimes this was even done live on television.

And he clamped down on what he saw as extravagant spending, cancelling Independence Day celebrations for the first time in 54 years. Instead, he ordered a public clean-up, getting his own hands dirty by picking up rubbish outside State House.