Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli surprised onlookers Wednesday when he walked out of State House to collect rubbish off the streets, after cancelling Independence Day celebrations for a national clean-up.
Magufuli, who took power in November after winning the October 25 elections, has introduced a swathe of austerity cuts and crackdowns on public corruption.
Dozens of fishermen joined in the clean-up with their president, who shovelled leaves and plastic rubbish close to a fish market near the presidential palace as a crowd of hundreds looked on.
“Let us work together to keep our country, cities, homes and workplaces clean, safe and healthy,” the smiling Magufuli said, as he picked up litter with his hands.
Street cleaning took place across the economic capital Dar es Salaam, with plumes of smoke rising into the sky as residents burned piles of litter.
Tanzania is also struggling to stem a major cholera outbreak, which health officials said last month had infected nearly 10,000 people and killed 150.
The Citizen newspaper carried a cartoon showing Tanzania’s national flag waving on a sweeping brush as the flag pole.
“Tanzania has changed – this is a new Tanzania,” said Anyitike Mwakitalima, a resident of Dar es Salaam, as he took a break cleaning a stretch of beach.
Former president Jakaya Kikwete, who stepped down in November after serving his two-term limit, took part in cleaning in his home town of Chalinze sweeping and gathering rubbish.
“I am happy with his exercise. Let us give our president full support in his campaign to fight cholera and other communicable diseases,” Kikwete told national television, adding that he was impressed with his successor, who is from the same political party.
“I am very happy with measures he is taking to curb inefficiency, tax evasion and other malpractices in public offices, I am very proud of him,” Kikwete said.
Since Magufuli took office, some officials have been jailed for lateness, the head of the tax authority has been suspended and the use of public funds to pay for Christmas and New Year greeting cards banned.
Annual independence celebrations usually see military parades, choirs and traditional dances at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania, then Tanganyika, won independence from Britain on December 9, 1961.