In the third decision of its like during his six month presidency, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has canceled the annual Union Day celebrations, slated for April 26th 2016, and has redirected some 2 billion Tanzanian shillings (approximately $910,000) of budget for the event towards expanding a road in Mwanza.
The decision to develop the city-center airport road in the country’s second biggest city comes as Mwanza’s infamous traffic continues to worsen. Mwanza’s airport is an international one, and the surrounding routes are prone to congestion, especially during peak hours.
“Following the cancellation of the celebrations, the President has directed that the money, which was to have been spent on food and drinks as well as paying allowances to those who would have been involved in the parade, be used to expand the Mwanza-Airport road,” read a statement by the State House. April 26th remains an official public holiday nonetheless.
On December 9th 2015, Magufuli made a similar decision – instead of lavish Independence Day celebrations, the president scrapped a 4 billion shilling budget (approximately $1.9 million) earmarked to celebrate 54 years of independence from Great Britain in the name of austerity. This decision was made during a cholera outbreak which gripped Tanzanians late last year. Instead of the usual presidential address, military parade and music performances, Magufuli called on Tanzanians to take to the streets and clean up their neighborhoods – a call he took to heart as he himself was pictured collecting litter around the State House.
One week prior to Independence Day 2015, the president also called off local World AIDs day activities, instead funneling costs towards purchasing medication for people living with HIV/AIDs in Tanzania. With his penchant for cost-cutting and efficiency and his intolerance towards frivolity, it’s no surprise that Magufuli has been nicknamed tingatinga, Swahili for bulldozer. In fact, during the end of 2015, there were local jokes made at the president’s expense, as Tanzanian’s wondered if he’d cancel Christmas – instead he only banned the printing of Christmas cards at the government’s expense.