Africa

John Magufuli - Tanzania's 'Bulldozer' president in profile

  • 24 November 2015
  • From the section Africa
John Magufuli, CCM party's presidential candidate in Tanzania - July 2015 Image copyright AFP

The son of a peasant farmer, John Pombe Magufuli won the election to become Tanzania's next president on his 56th birthday, so it is the perfect gift for him.

He was never part of the inner-circle of the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, so it came as a surprise to his critics that he secured its candidature for the presidency.

His nomination angered CCM stalwart and ex-Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who crossed to the opposition to challenge Mr Magufuli for the presidency.

With the backing of the formidable CCM machinery, Mr Magufuli won the 29 October poll with 58% of the votes to Mr Lowassa's 40% in a fiercely contested election.

As works minister in the outgoing government, he was reputed to be a no-nonsense, results-driven politician.


Five things about John Magufuli:

  • The 56-year-old is a former school teacher, industrial chemist and outgoing works minister
  • Nicknamed "The Bulldozer"
  • A devout Catholic with a corruption-free reputation
  • Performed push-ups on the campaign trail to prove he was fit
  • Pledged to end power shortages and exploit Tanzania's natural gas discoveries

Five challenges for 'The Bulldozer'


He became known as "The Bulldozer" for driving a programme to build roads across the country.

Those close to him say he is keen on details and when he embarks on an assignment he pursues it to completion.

However, this very trait has cost him friends.

His critics say he is very abrasive, and he received a lot of criticism for auctioning off state-owned homes to government employees and the public.

Plays traditional drums

Married with five children, Mr Magufuli was born in north-western Tanzania's Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria.

Once a maths and chemistry teacher, he went on to become an industrial chemist - and was awarded a doctorate in chemistry from Dar es Salaam University in 2009.

Mr Magufuli is a staunch Catholic who loves singing in the church choir and playing traditional drums.

Image copyright CCM
Image caption CCM campaigners would also do push-ups to show John Magufuli to show he was fit for office

His supporters say he upholds traditional family values, and he campaigned for the presidency on a platform of hard work.

He performed push-ups at rallies - sometimes with a microphone in hand to refute allegations by the opposition that he was physically unfit for the top job.

More popular than the party?

A CCM loyalist since 1977, Mr Magufuli was elected MP in 1995.

"He was for many years minister for works, supervising execution of mega projects worth trillions of shillings, but was never implicated in any corruption scandal," Joseph Warioba, a former prime minster and veteran CCM politician, told AFP news agency.

"He could have been the richest politician in the country."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Magufuli's supporters have been celebrating his victory in parts of Tanzania
Image copyright AP
Image caption The governing party has been in power since independence in 1961

On the campaign trail, he tried to portray himself as a humble man who came from a poor background.

"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.

"I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people's welfare," he added.

Mr Magufuli also promised to tackle the endless power shortages Tanzanians face, and to exploit its gas resources for the benefit of the nation.

He vowed that he would not tolerate corruption - an issue which drove many voters to support the opposition Ukawa coalition.

Some analysts say Mr Magufuli is more popular than the party, which has effectively been in power since independence in 1961, and he will have to purge it of corrupt officials or risk losing credibility.

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