John Magufuli
New Tanzanian president John Magufuli has launched an anti-corruption campaign in the countryReuters

Human rights groups have condemned the Tanzanian government's decision to arrest six civil servants after they arrived at a meeting on land dispute more than three hours late. The meeting was scheduled to take place in the capital Dar es Salaam on 26 November but the officials were not able to explain their tardiness.

They spent at least six hours in custody and later showed up two hours early to the meeting rescheduled for 27 November, local media reported. A spokesperson for the government justified the arrest, arguing the officials' lateness was "irresponsible", AFP reported.

However, a spokesperson for the Tanzanian Human Rights Defenders' Coalition told the BBC: "If someone does not show up for work, then we have to follow the laws and procedures we have." But he added that the coalition supports current President John Magufuli's efforts to hold everyone responsible.

The arrest came as the government tries to tighten standards and tackle corruption and the widespread problem of land disputes, sometimes linked to allegedly corrupted officials.

Magufuli, who was elected in the October presidential election, ordered the government to solve several issues affecting Tanzanian society. He also scrapped Independence Day for 2015, which falls on 6 December, and replaced it with a campaign to tackle a cholera outbreak.

The former minister of lands and human settlements criticised the country's widespread corruption during his political campaign. After taking office, he introduced austerity measures that some fear will negatively impact civil servants. As part of those measures, Magufuli decided officials will not be able to send out government-printed Christmas and New Year cards unless they print them "at their own cost".