The Man John Pombe Magufuli

  • Born in Chato, north-west Tanzania, in 1959
  • Studied chemistry and maths at the University of Dar es Salaam
  • Worked as a chemistry and maths teacher
  • First elected as an MP in 1995
  • Became a cabinet minister in 2000
  • First elected president in 2015
  • Won second term in 2020

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

HE was the son of a peasant farmer who was once praised for his no-nonsense approach. He went on to become a controversial leader, especially over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Before he was president he acquired the nickname “the bulldozer” for driving a programme to build roads as minister for works, and later was hailed for his anti-corruption stance and his distinct dislike for wasting money.

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.

Magufuli 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.

He also banned all foreign trips for public servants. In January 2016, barely two months into his term, his administration announced that state TV would no longer broadcast live parliamentary proceedings, officially as a cost-cutting measure. Magufuli’s administration continued to roll out a cocktail of bold and unusual directives, introducing new laws intended to increase revenue from multinational mining firms.

In 2017, Acacia Mining, a subsidiary of Canadian parent company Barrick Gold, was slapped with an incredible $190bn (£145bn) tax bill over royalties the government said it owed, though it denied any wrongdoing.

As part of the settlement, Barrick eventually agreed to pay $300m after buying out Acacia, and a new operating company, Twiga Minerals, was formed with the government owning 16% of the joint venture. Barrick and the Tanzanian government also agreed to the sharing of unspecified future economic benefits from the mines on a 50-50 basis.

In 2018, Tanzania passed a law to punish anyone questioning official statistics, making the state the sole custodian of data. The World Bank said the changes were “deeply worrying”

But even his critics agree that Magufuli contributed to Tanzania’s development, investing in several large infrastructure projects such as the creation of a standard gauge railway to connect the country with its regional neighbours, the expansion of major highways, and the construction of a bus rapid transit system in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam.

He also increased electricity production to the grid which reduced the need for power rationing.

And he revived the state-run national airline, Air Tanzania. He styled his governance after Tanzania’s first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who was always fiercely independent.

Magufuli grew up under Nyerere’s rule in a village in north-western Chato district along the shore of Lake Victoria, and says his modest background has inspired his own desire to work for the Tanzanian public.

“Our home was grass thatched, and like many boys I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family,” he said during his 2015 campaign.

“I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people’s welfare,” he added.

After school he worked for a year as a senior school maths and chemistry teacher before returning to further education. He worked for a few years as an industrial chemist before resigning in 1995 to run for the parliamentary seat in his own Chato constituency.

After taking that seat, he quickly rose through the ranks to be appointed deputy minister for public works.

In 2015, Magufuli wanted to run for the presidency. He is said to have been considered a consensus candidate for the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party – which had been in power for 54 years.

The elections were the tightest in the country’s history, but Magufuli pulled ahead to win with 58% of the vote. He won his second term with 84% of the vote, but the main opposition parties denounced the result as fraudulent.