Tanzanian President John Magufuli was on Wednesday night pronounced dead by the country’s Vice President Samia Seluhu Hassan on state television. According to her, the 61 year old Head of State succumbed to heart failure.
By the time of his death, Magufuli had not appeared in public since the end of last month, igniting a contagious debate that he could have been incapacitated by Covid-19, a disease whose severity he has widely downplayed.
Having followed the pandemic trends at the onset of the virus, Magufuli made a drastic shift in his mindset about the disease, thereby faulting the testing mechanisms which he claimed could have been giving out fake test results to make the situation look very dare, thereby throwing his country in disarray.
In May last year, all reporting on new infections ceased and the country subsequently declared COVID- free. He rooted for a madagascar made cure which he claimed was proved to be effective in treating the virus. He claimed that the Western vaccines were a plot to exploit Africans by the Western imperialists.
Tanzania has not updated it’s COVID-19 cases or deaths since May, but a doctor in Dar es Salaam told the BBC that there has been a significant increase in the last two months in admissions of patients exhibiting respiratory symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The COVID-19 allegations were amplified by exiled opposition Leader Tundu Lissu who has insisted that his political rival was suffering from COVID-19.
“This is a president whose denial of COVID-19, whose attempts to cover it up, whose adamant refusal to take any action to combat the pandemic, who has thumbed his nose to the world, refused any international or regional cooperation to deal with COVID-19 and now he goes down with COVID-19 — that is poetic justice to me.” Tundu tweeted hours before Magufuli was pronounced dead on Wednesday.
Magufuli, a former chemistry teacher, was first elected to the presidency in 2015. Critics said he moved the country toward authoritarianism, while others praised his earlier battles against corruption.
Lissu called Magufuli a tyrant but said Tanzania will be better after him because “he was so blatant in his repression, because his actions hurt so many people. I think when we speak the language of reform … people will know what we are talking about.”
A diplomatically worded statement last month by Donald Wright, the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania, called on governments to share accurate and timely information about their countries’ case numbers with the World Health Organization.
The U.S. State Department said Wednesday, “We extend our condolences to Tanzanians mourning the passing of President John Pombe Magufuli. We will continue to work with the Government of Tanzania to improve ties between the American and Tanzanian people. The United States remains committed to continuing to support Tanzanians as they advocate for respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and work to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that Tanzania can move forward on a democratic and prosperous path.
Although the official cause of Magufuli’s death is Heart Failure according to Government, his laxity in handling the disease that has crippled the world is making it hard for most people, mainly from outside Tanzania to believe that this is not rather just a cover-up.
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