John Joseph Pombe Magufuli (born 29 October 1959) was a Tanzanian politician and the fifth President of Tanzania, in office since 2015 until 2021 when he passed on due to heart complications. He was the chairman of the Southern African Development Community from 2019–2020.
First elected as a Member of Parliament in 1995, he served in the Cabinet of Tanzania as Deputy Minister of Works from 1995 to 2000, Minister of Works from 2000 to 2006, Minister of Lands and Human Settlement from 2006 to 2008, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010, and as Minister of Works for a second time from 2010 to 2015.
Running as the candidate of the ruling party in Tanzania (CCM), he won the October 2015 presidential election and was sworn in on 5 November 2015. Magufuli ran on a platform of reducing government corruption and spending while also investing in Tanzania’s industries, but has been accused of having increasing autocratic tendencies brought on by restrictions on freedom of speech and a crackdown on members of the political opposition
Early Life and Education
John Joseph Magufuli started his education at The Chato Primary School from 1967 to 1974 and went on to The Katoke Seminary in Biharamulo for his secondary education from 1975 to 1977 before relocating to Lake Secondary School in 1977 and graduating in 1978.
He joined Mkwawa High School for his Advanced level studies in 1979 and graduated in 1981. That same year he joined Mkwawa College of Education (a constituent college of the University of Dar es Salaam) for a Diploma in Education Science, majoring in Chemistry, Mathematics and Education.
Magufuli earned his bachelor of science in education degree majoring in chemistry and mathematics as teaching subjects from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988.
He also earned his masters and doctorate degrees in chemistry from The University of Dar es Salaam, in 1994 and 2009, respectively.
In late 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Dodoma for improving the economy of the country.
John Joseph Magufuli ventured into elective politics after a short period as a teacher at The Sengerema Secondary School between 1982 and 1983. He taught chemistry and mathematics.
Later on, he quit his teaching job and was employed by The Nyanza Cooperative Union Limited as an industrial chemist. He remained there from 1989 to 1995, when he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) representing Chato district.
He was appointed Deputy Minister for Works in his first term as MP. He retained his seat in the 2000 election and was promoted to a full ministerial position under the same docket.
After President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete was requested to take office, he moved John Joseph Magufuli to the post of Minister of Lands and Human Settlement on 4 January 2006. Subsequently, he served as Minister of Livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010 and again as Minister of Works from 2010 to 2015.
2015 presidential election
On 12 July 2015 Magufuli was nominated as CCM’s presidential candidate for the 2015 election, winning the majority votes against his opponent Justice Minister and former United Nations Deputy Secretary General Miss Asha-Rose Migiro and the African Union Ambassador to the United States of America, Miss Amina Salum Ali for the party’s nomination.
Although Magufuli faced a strong challenge from opposition candidate and previous CCM political party member Edward Lowassa in the election, held on 25 October 2015, Magufuli was declared the winner by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on 29 October; he received 58% of the vote. His running mate, Samia Suluhu, was also declared Vice President. He was sworn in on 5 November 2015.
Magufuli was elected on a programme to “regain economic sovereignty in the face of international financial institutions”, according to the academic and political scientist Rwekaza Mukandala.
2020 presidential election
In July 2020 Magufuli was nominated as the CCM’s presidential candidate in elections scheduled for October 2020. His nomination was not opposed after the expulsion from the party earlier in the year of Bernard Membe, a former foreign minister who had planned to challenge the nomination. He received the highest votes and was therefore re-elected to extend his presidency until 2025 for a second term.
According to Al Jazeera, “The election was marred by allegations of arrests of candidates and protesters, restrictions on agents of political parties to access polling stations, multiple voting, pre-ticking of ballots, and widespread blocking of social media.” A local elections watchdog group noted a heavy deployment of military and police whose conduct created a “climate of fear”.
After taking office, Magufuli immediately began to impose measures to curb government spending, such as barring unnecessary foreign travel by government officials, using cheaper vehicles and board rooms for transport and meetings respectively, shrinking the delegation for a tour of the Commonwealth from 50 people to 4, dropping its sponsorship of a World AIDS Day exhibition in favour of purchasing AIDS medication, and discouraging lavish events and parties by public institutions (such as cutting the budget of a state dinner inaugurating the new parliament session). Magufuli reduced his own salary from US$15,000 to US$4,000 per month.
Magufuli suspended the country’s Independence Day festivities for 2015, in favor of a national cleanup campaign to help reduce the spread of cholera. Magufuli personally participated in the cleanup efforts, having stated that it was “so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera”. The cost savings were to be invested towards improving hospitals and sanitation in the country.
On 10 December 2015, more than a month after taking office, Magufuli announced his cabinet. Its size was reduced from 30 ministries to 19 to help reduce costs.
On 12 April 2016, Magufuli conducted his first foreign visit to Rwanda, where he met his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame and inaugurated the new bridge and one-stop border post at Rusumo. Magufuli also attended the memorial of the 22nd anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
In July 2016, Tanzania banned shisha smoking, with Magufuli citing its health effects among youth as the reason. In March 2017, Tanzania banned the export of unprocessed ores, in an effort to encourage domestic smelting.
In January 2018, Magufuli issued a directive ordering the suspension of registration for foreign merchant ships, following recent incidents surrounding the seizure of overseas shipments of illegal goods (particularly drugs and weapons) being transported under the flag. Tanzania and Zanzibar had gained reputations for being flags of convenience.In the same year, He introduced a fee free education for all the government schools in 2016.
“Vaccinations are dangerous. If white people were able to come up with vaccinations, a vaccination for AIDS would have been found,” Magufuli claimed in a January 2021 speech.
When questioned about closing churches during the COVID-19 pandemic in Tanzania, he stated “That’s where there is true healing. Corona is the devil and it cannot survive in the body of Jesus.” Magufuli and Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda announced that the disease had been defeated by national prayer, and called for a public celebration. “The corona disease has been eliminated thanks to God”, Magufuli told the church congregation in Dodoma, the country’s capital. The World Health Organization (WHO) has queried the government’s approach to COVID-19. By June 2020, the government had not published data on the coronavirus since late April.
He was married to Janeth Magufuli, a primary school teacher, and had three children together.
A Kenyan newspaper reported on 10 March 2021 that “an African leader” was being treated for COVID-19 at a hospital in Nairobi, leading to speculation that it could be President Magufuli, who had not been seen in public since February.On the night of 17 March 2021, Tanzania’s vice president, Samia Suluhu, announced Magufuli’s death and attributed it to heart-related problems.