Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has died at the age of 61, the country’s vice-president said. He died on Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Samia Suluhu Hassan disclosed this in a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday.
The BBC reported last Wednesday that Magufuli has not made a public appearance in some time, prompting Tanzanians to ask for the whereabouts of their president. The opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, said the president was on admission in a hospital due to COVID-19. This is yet to be confirmed. Lissu said that Magufuli was flown to Kenya last Monday but rather quietly. He added that Magufuli may have suffered a cardiac arrest in his illness.
Last year, the Covid-19 skeptic leader declared a “victory” of the pandemic over what he said were the prayers of Tanzanians. Magufuli’s administration had declared that the country was coronavirus-free. This came after the government insisted normal public life would have to go on in spite of the suspected increase in cases leading up to the end of last year. Schools remained open as did churches.
“The corona disease has been eliminated thanks to God,” Magufuli once stated in a speech, apparently because of prayers. The spiritual inclination was not a joke as the government warned the American Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam to stay out of Tanzania’s internal affairs after the American envoy issued a statement in May 2020 claiming that hospitals in the commercial capital were on the verge of collapse due to admitting coronavirus-infected patients.
Magufuli did not only allege foreign conspiracies to undermine his government but also moved to crush faith in Tanzania’s scientific research community. He once stated that “probably, the technicians are also bought to mislead” on infection and mortality rates in the country.
The head of the national research unit in charge of understanding Tanzania’s case count and kinds of infection was sacked after his outfit was accused of finding coronavirus in goats and pawpaw.
The government then launched an investigation into “criminal possibility at the national laboratory”. While most African countries placed restrictions on public life, Tanzania did not. Apart from full churches and mosques, stadia were also loaded with soccer fans and continue to be.