President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday joined other African leaders in celebrating the life and legacy of former Tanzania President John Pombwe Magufuli who died of heart complications last Wednesday.
There were at least nine leaders physically present while others delegated their vice-presidents or other high-ranking officials during the funeral service held at Jamhuri Stadium in Tanzania’s administrative capital Dodoma.
Besides Chakwera, the other leaders present included Cyril Ramaphosa (South Africa), Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Edgar Lungu (Zambia), Filipe Nyusi (Mozambique), Emmerson Mnangagwa (Zimbabwe), Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana), Felix Tshisekedi (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Azali Assoumani (Comoros).
Each of the leaders present was accorded an opportunity to deliver a eulogy to Magufuli.
With minor differences in content and style of delivery, almost all speeches described the fallen Tanzanian leader as an outstanding president whose style of leadership they said had an impact on the whole continent.
Magufuli’s Pan-African attitude seems to have inspired many leaders, at least if their speeches are anything to go by.
Taking his turn , Chakwera, as usual, masterfully delivered his poetically decorated eulogy which started trending on the social media soon after delivery.
Many foreigners, going by social media posts, were mesmerised with Chakwera’s delivery. But for Malawians this was just another of the many beautiful speeches by their President.
The President said: “When they said laziness and sloth in public service cannot be cured, they did not see Magufuli coming. When they said the cartels of corruption strangling Africa’s governments cannot be defeated, they did not see Magufuli coming.
“When they said African States cannot become middle-income economies within a single presidential term [of five years], they did not see Magufuli coming.”
Chakwera, who met Magufuli last October, applauded his departed president for pursuing a development agenda which was not based on what he called “failed prescriptions of foreign financial institutions that have left Africa more impoverished and in debt”.
On his part, Lungu said Magufuli will be remembered for his leadership and contribution to the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc.
Kenyatta, whose country is Tanzania’s northern neighbour, said Magufuli will be missed in the East Africa Community (EAC) where he played a critical role.
He said: “He was a respected leader in EAC and the world. For several years, he has shown that Africans have the capacity to be independent.
“I am here to mourn a friend, a close friend, we used to talk on a daily basis and we exchanged ideas regarding Kenya and Tanzania and EAC.”
Despite his visible s uccess stories in infrastructure development that transformed his country during the first five years of his term, Magufuli will also be remembered for his controversial stand on Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed millions of lives globally.
He considered Tanzania a Covid-19-free zone such that they did not follow guidelines such
as wearing face masks and observing social or physical distancing.
During Chakwera’s October visit to Tanzania, he was seen conducting business without wearing a face mask which attracted criticism back home.
But on the second and solemn visit yesterday, Chakwe r a and hi s delegation were seen wearing face masks as were other foreign delegates in the very important persons enclosure at the stadium.
On whether Samia Suluhu Hassan, hitherto Magufuli’s Vice-President since 2015 who has ascended to the presidency in line with constitutional order, would change the country’s approach in the management of Covid-19, journalist and editor of Tanzania’s The Citizen newspaper Samuel Kamndaya cast doubt there will be change.
“It is difficult to tell. As for now, with Magufuli’s track record of performance, she would not want to be seen as having moved from his boss’ ideals even before he had been laid to rest,” he said.
Kamndaya said Magufuli had become a darling of many and any departure from his leadership style would make the successor unpopular.
Thousands of Tanzanians have paid their last respects to their fallen leader and The Citizen newspaper reports that there have been some stampedes which have left some people dead and others injured