New Twaweza report has President Magufuli looking good

16Sep 2016
Devota Mwachang'a
The Guardian
New Twaweza report has President Magufuli looking good

PRESIDENT John Magufuli has polled 96 per cent overall approval ratings in the first survey since he came into office late last year, with the removal of government ghost workers,

introduction of a free education policy, and ruthless sackings of errant senior public servants listed as among his best moves so far.

According to the survey findings released by Twaweza in a research brief titled: ‘The People’s President? Citizens’ assessment and expectations of the fifth phase government’, nine out of ten citizens (88 per cent) are confident that the president can maintain his current momentum until the end of his current first term.

At least six out of ten citizens (58 per cent) said they “do not disapprove of any of Magufuli’s actions”, Twaweza executive director Aidan Eyakuze said at the report launch.

“Citizens are very positive about the performance of the fifth phase government and President Magufuli in particular. They report that public servants across the board are more accountable and that they have noticed improvements in public services” he noted.

Eyakuze said the brief was based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey.

The findings are based on data collected from 1,813 respondents across Mainland Tanzania (Zanzibar is not covered in these results) between June 4 and 20 this year.

Said Eyakuze: “When citizens were asked to name actions (by the president) that they approve of, more than six out of ten mentioned the removal of ghost workers (69 per cent), free education (67per cent), and the dismissal of public servants (61 per cent).”

“When asked to name actions that they disapprove of, three out of ten (32 per cent) mentioned the sugar import ban and price directive.”

The findings show that the majority of citizens believe there have been improvements in almost all public services under the fifth phase government. The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) leads as 85 percent of citizens say services there are vastly improved under the new government.

Citizens also think services are better in schools (75 percent), police stations (74 percent), courts (73 percent), health facilities (72 percent), and water service providers (67 percent).

“It is important to note that these data show citizens’ perceptions of services and do not necessarily represent any hard improvements,” Eyakuze said.

He added that similarly, almost all citizens (95 percent) say that civil servants in service delivery like doctors and teachers, as well as administrative civil servants, have become more accountable and efficient.

But according to the findings, the citizens themselves admit that they are not very informed about major national issues. Only 4 percent said they felt well informed about national politics, and only 9 percent felt the same about health and education issues.

According to the Twaweza boss: “This indicates that reported improvements in services are based on personal experiences or very localised information. However citizens remain hungry for more information on the sectors that impact their lives.”

“When asked what topic they would like to ask their village chair, councilor or MP about, health, education, water and roads consistently emerged as critical issues. When it comes to President Magufuli, two out of ten citizens (18 percent) would like to ask him about prices and inflation.”

A similar pattern emerges when citizens are asked whether they know and have engaged with local, district or national leadership, he said. Almost all citizens (96 percent) know their village executive officer and almost half of them (47 percent) have interacted with him or her.

But only two out of 10 citizens (21 percent) know their district executive director and only four percent have interacted with him or her, Eyakuze added.

At the same time, despite a strong approval for the work of the fifth phase government and President Magufuli personally, citizens expressed keenness for principles of democracy and justice to be followed.

The survey findings showed that eight out of ten citizens think public officials should only be dismissed when proof of wrongdoing has been established. A similar proportion of citizens (75 percent) think that officials should be dismissed for failing to perform their duties rather than for disobeying the president’s orders.

Also, despite showing enthusiasm for the dismissals of public servants, citizens held mixed views on the impact of the public dismissals. Although nine out of ten (90 percent) said the dismissals deter other public servants from wrongdoing, four out of ten (37 percent) also think that it demoralises other government officials.

And half of citizens (48 percent) think that the dismissals will only cause public servants to find new ways to hide their wrongdoing.

Furthermore, citizens are concerned about due process, the report says.

“For example, they want proof of wrongdoing to be established before officials are named, blamed and shamed. They are also worried about decisions that affect their pockets, like the sugar ban. This shows that they will not just blindly approve of all of the actions of a popular president. They continue to value the fundamental principles of good governance.”

According to Eyakuze, the most exciting thing about the survey results is “the suggestion that citizens’ expectations have shifted.”

“Previously there was a sense of a vicious circle of apathy in which experience of poor performance lowered expectations, which in turn allowed poor performance to continue unchallenged,” he noted.

“But recent developments have shown that public sector performance can improve. Citizens could well come to expect higher standards as a permanent and pleasant new norm.” he added.