President John Magufuli launched the twelfth parliament with a speech in which he outlined his vision for the country in the next five years. At another event where he was swearing in the prime minister and two cabinet ministers at State house Chamwino, he talked about no appointee of his has any guarantee in office. He also spoke of giving himself more time to appoint more ministers. He said some changes will be necessary from his previous line-up.
These two speeches indicated that while there will be some changes but that will not be on the fundamental issues which have come to define his presidency. The country’s leadership of the three organs of state has been left intact. For the more political institutions like parliament and the government, this could be a testament of the rumblings within the ruling party, CCM being kept at bay. In the past, factionalism within CCM spilled to other state institutions.
To some presidents, what happened within CCM impacted much of their time in office while to others, some forces beyond the ruling party gave different colors to their time in office.
Former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s two terms in office were different. While he continued his efforts of liberalizing the country’s economy throughout his time in office, he ruled the first five years under one party. His second term ushered in multipartism and all the chaos that came with it. It was during his second term that the two-government structure of the Union faced another serious challenge from within CCM through a group of parliamentarians.
Factionalism within CCM and the liberalization of the economy had some far reaching consequences for both the ruling party and the country.
He even had time for some serious regional engagement after a series of crises and wars engulfed the Great Lakes region. History has come to view the amiable Mwinyi’s presidency as one which was under extraordinary cirumstances.
Then former president Benjamin Mkapa replaced Mwinyi in office and his two terms in charge were also different. He introduced aggressive economic reforms, and became a truly globalist president who engaged the rest of the world and realized the dream of re-launching the East African project which Mwinyi had started back in the early 1990s, it was the domestic front, as always that proved problematic. Critics said his economic reforms amounted to “selling” the country in pieces to foreign investors; they argued that the majority were being dispossessed through privatization of the major means of production.
Allegations of corruption were rife. Within CCM, factionalism had taken hold of the party by the time he handed over the country to another president. He had a chance to tell his side of the story through his biography. Since his passing, his legacy in power has been reassessed, to a point where he is seen as the architect of the current structure of the government.
Indeed, history reserves its judgment.
Former president Jakaya Kikwete replaced Mkapa and inherited a divided ruling party. His first term in office was characterized by many revelations of mind-boggling corruption scandals. Opposition politicians gave him a difficult time in parliament and on political platforms because of these scandals. In his second term, he tried his hand on the costly new constitution process after opposition parties had managed to make it an electoral issue.
He engaged the region and the world as well, and in the process stepping on the toes of some neighbors who were very unhappy with his approach to regional politics. He endured countless conspiracy theories about the country’s role in regional stability.
In an ironic twist of fate, since his retirement leading opposition politicians who had labeled him a “failure” or ‘weak” while in office have since changed their minds.
In his first term in office, President Magufuli was not known for holding press conferences or granting interviews to journalists. He has also said he will continue to focus on the domestic front, meaning foreign trips will continue to be rare. In this regard, he is like modern Chinese rulers who have rarely ventured beyond the borders of the emerging superpower.
If his next five years in office mirrors the last five years then we are headed for another whirlwind. His critics have harsh words for him while his supporters see a country changing for the better. The headlines of the day have changed accordingly too.
However, the passage of time might provide a very different epitaph for his time in office. So, don’t write one yet.
Erick Mwakibete is a socio-political commentator and analyst based in Dar es Salaam