The President of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli is dead, according to the country’s Vice President Samia Suluhu.
Ms Suluhu confirmed the sad news on Wednesday evening.
She said Magufuli passed on while in a hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was receiving treatment. She noted that the President succumbed to heart complications.
Magufuli had remained out of sight since late February, amid rumors he had COVID-19. Officials had insisted he was well.
However on Monday, the vice president said it is normal for people to get sick. She asked Tanzanians to ignore outside information that would cause confusion.
Speaking in the northeastern town of Tanga at the launch of a government project, Ms Suluhu made comments that seemed to refer to President John Magufuli without mentioning him by name.
“I want to confirm to you Tanzania is safe. It’s normal for a human being to undergo checkups like flu and fever and could suffer other illnesses. I want to plead with Tanzanians, if there was a time to hold together is now. This is the time to build unity. It’s not a time to listen to information coming from outside,” said the vice president.
Tanzanian authorities had come under pressure to reveal Magufuli’s health status after some people, including opposition politicians, said he was sick with coronavirus.
The president had not been seen in public since February 27, and several media reports said he was taken abroad for treatment.
Since the worldwide pandemic began a year ago, Magufuli has either denied the virus is present in Tanzania or said it can be defeated with steam inhalation and prayer.
Philbert Komu a political commentator and teaches philosophy at the University of Dar es Salaam said the vice president was trying to keep Tanzanians calm.
“Her comments seem to be normal to me for someone to be sick with the flu or coughing. It should be a normal thing to us. It shouldn’t bring too much chaos and uprising in a state like Tanzania. … I really believe that she wanted to deliver a message that she has not clearly really wanted to say,” said Komu.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa refuted claims the president was sick, saying he was well and working.
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