Tanzanian President John Magufuli Dies At 61

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died, the country’s vice president has announced on state television, after weeks of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts.

In a televised address to the nation late yesterday, Vice President Samia Suluhu said the 61-year-old president had died of a “heart condition”, which he has suffered for a decade, at a hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam.

Magufuli had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said. But he was rushed to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.

A vocal COVID-19 sceptic, Magufuli had last appeared in public on February 27and top government officials had denied that he was in ill health, even as speculation swirled online that he was sick and possibly incapacitated from illness.

Magufuli had long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local remedies to protect themselves from the respiratory disease.

Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through divine intervention.

He refused to wear a face-mask or take lockdown measures. But a week before he was last seen, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating, after the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died of COVID-19.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, Magufuli was elected in 2015 on promises to tackle corruption and boost infrastructure development. He won a second term in a disputed poll last year.

However, his government has been accused by rights groups of stifling democracy and cracking down on the media.

Critics accused Magufuli that his dismissal of the threat from COVID-19, as well as his refusal to lock down the country, may have contributed to many unknown deaths.

Magufuli’s absence had drawn concerns from main opposition in Tanzania, which urged the  government to ‘explain mystery’ of Magufuli’s absence for  nearly three weeks, saying the public has the right to know about his whereabouts and who is running the country.

Main opposition party on Tuesday said it knows ‘for sure that the president is ill’, even as the government calls on citizens to ignore rumours.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ACT-Wazalendo party said Magufuli’s absence amid the clatter of rumours “has raised palpable public anxiety and tension which threatens the welfare of the country”.

“We demand that the relevant authorities immediately tell Tanzanians the real situation of Dr Magufuli’s condition and assure the republic about continuity of the roles of his office as stipulated in the Constitution,” the statement signed by ACT-Wazalendo leader Zitto Kabwe said.

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