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Five Years Of Magufuli: The Highs & Lows

Five Years Of Magufuli: The Highs & Lows

Tanzanian President John Magufuli, 61, came to power in 2015 as a corruption-busting man of the people, cracking the whip as promised in his first term but raising alarm with a slide into authoritarianism.

2015: Zealous clean-up operations 

After his October election Magufuli quickly gets to work with wildly popular decisions, such as scrapping lavish independence day celebrations in favour of a street clean-up.

He bans unnecessary foreign travel for government officials. Dozens implicated in corruption are suspended.

A Twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo spreads across the continent, where many tired of corruption scandals, ineffective civil services and wasteful government spending became enamoured with Magufuli’s style.

Tanzania President John Magufuli during a street clean up.

 2016: Crackdown on media, homosexuality 

Opposition leaders accuse Magufuli of squeezing democratic space after he bans political rallies and halts live coverage of parliament sessions.

In mid-2016 authorities began what Human Rights Watch called an “unprecedented crackdown” on the rights of the LGBT community, with a rise in arrests, threats, and the shutting of clinics providing AIDS-related services.

In November, the country passes the Media Services Act, with tough penalties for offences such as defamation, sedition and publishing false statements.

In December Maxence Melo, co-founder of the Jamii Forums whistleblowing website is arrested after he refused to comply with the 2015 CyberCrimes Act requiring him to reveal the site’s contributors.

 2017: Mining shake up  

A government commission says fraud in the mining sector has cost Tanzania $84 billion (75 billion euros) over 19 years, blaming foreign companies for failing to declare revenues.

Tanzania accuses gold mining company Acacia Mining, owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold, of owing $190 billion in unpaid taxes and shuts down its right to export gold ore concentrate. Tanzania and Barrick later agree to a $300 million payment to resolve the tax claims.

In July, Tanzania passes new mining laws giving the state 16 percent of equity in mining projects, allowing it to renegotiate contracts and increasing royalties on exports of gold, copper, silver, platinum and uranium.

Magufuli orders the army to build a wall around the country’s tanzanite mines to prevent smuggling and better control exports of the unique blue and violet gems.

In September, after a total of six arrests in 2017, current presidential candidate for the opposition Chadema Tundu Lissu is shot 16 times in what his party says in an assassination attempt.

 2018: Growing concern 

The country’s Catholic Church accuses Magufuli of violating democratic norms.

The European Union and United States issue statements criticising attacks on civil liberties and human rights.

Denmark announces the withdrawal of $10 million in aid owing to “unacceptable homophobic remarks”.

One local leader from opposition party Chadema is found beaten to death, while another is found hacked to death at his home. A female university student is shot dead as police disperse an opposition protest.

In March, an online content law imposes a stiff fee on bloggers and imposes fines for content considered “indecent, obscene (or) hate speech”, or even just for causing “annoyance”.

In July Magufuli vows his ruling party will be “in power forever, for eternity”.

 2019: Elections boycott 

In August, journalist Erick Kabendera is arrested. He is initially detained for questioning over his citizenship, then charged with publishing “false and seditious information”. These charges are then replaced with tax evasion and money laundering. He is freed seven months later after pleading guilty.

In November, Magufuli’s ruling party wins local elections with 99 percent after an opposition boycott.

Rights activist Tito Magoti is arrested and charged with money laundering.

 2020: Coronavirus denial 

In March Tanzania confirms its first case of the coronavirus.

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In April, Magufuli calls for three days of prayer, urging citizens to “continue praying to God and not depending on facemasks.”

As cases shoot up at one of the fastest rates in East Africa, Magufuli accuses the health ministry of “creating panic” and April 29 becomes the last time the country gives official case numbers.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe slams a “state of denial” in government.

On May 1, Chadema asks its MPs to stop attending parliament sessions and isolate themselves after three lawmakers die of unknown causes.

Magufuli questions official Covid-19 data, saying he had secretly had animals, fruits and vehicle oil tested at the laboratory, some of which test positive. Senior laboratory officials are suspended.

Tanzania objects to a US embassy health advisory warning that hospitals are overwhelmed.

By July Magufuli is insisting there is no more Covid-19 in the country.

In June, Mbowe is hospitalised after being beaten up, and his leg broken, in what his party claimed was a “politically-motivated” attack.

The US accuses Tanzania of seeking to “stifle democratic norms” ahead of general elections, after the arrests of opposition members and the closure of a newspaper.

In July, Magufuli is nominated to seek re-election.

Lissu returns from three years in exile, having recovered, to run for president.

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