By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Tanzanian president, John Magufuli, is dead. He passed on at the age 61 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 died of a “heart
condition”, which he had suffered for a decade, at a hospital in
Magufuli had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac
Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said, adding that 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 respiratory disease.
Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks
before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through
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
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.