Twitter is having fun with the penny-pinching ways of Tanzania’s new president

Magufuli: “You couldn’t say that to me on WhatsApp.”
Magufuli: “You couldn’t say that to me on WhatsApp.”
Image: Reuters/Stringer
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Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

John Magufuli has only been president for three weeks but he is already stamping his authority on the new government.

A few days after taking office, he issued an edict banning all foreign trips by government officials. Any external work requiring Tanzania’s presence would be done by the country’s diplomats abroad, the president’s office explained.

“Unless there is an urgent undertaking abroad one could be allowed to travel after getting permission from the president or the chief Secretary,” Premi Kibanga, the president’s spokesperson, said (in Kiswahili) in a statement. Instead, civil servants are urged to spend more time traveling to rural areas and fix the country’s problems there.

It hasn’t stopped there. He has ordered against official gatherings outside the office when such meetings can be conducted through conference calls. And this week came the news that independence day celebrations next month, an annual fixture, are cancelled. The funds that would’ve been spent on the pomp and circumstance should be directed to other public services, such as the fight against cholera, the president’s office explained (in Kiswahili).

Also banned are public offices buying and sending christmas cards on the government’s dime. On top of all of that, Magufuli has promised a small, lean cabinet, expected to be announced next month.

This new shift towards a more austere government appears to have resonated across the continent.

Under #WhatWouldMagufuliDo, people are figuring out all kind of ways of saving money, it seems.

From a cheaper way of exercising, eating at home rather than going out to lunch, to forgoing a cab home, folks are embracing a thriftiness modeled after Tanzania’s new president.

Scaling back on government spending may not just be a political move, but a necessary step for a government that simply has no money. There are reports that the government is running on a significant budget deficit and struggling to meet revenue targets to fulfill its obligations.

No wonder Magufuli is looking to save every shilling he can. And when the new ministers come in soon, before any expenditure they will need to ask themselves: What would Magufuli do?