Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, one among Africa’s most prominent leaders, has died aged 61, vice chairman Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Wednesday. He died from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.
Magufuli had not been seen publicly for quite a fortnight, and rumors are circulating about his health. there have been sparking rumors that he had contracted COVID-19.
“Dear Tanzanians, it’s sad to announce that today 17 March 2021 around 6 p.m. we lost our brave leader, President John Magufuli who died from heart illness at Mzena hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was getting treatment,” the president said on state broadcaster TBC.
She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half-mast.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said on Friday that he had spoken to Magufuli and blamed the narrative of the president’s ailment on some “hateful” Tanzanians living abroad.
After the death was announced, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said he had spoken to president Hassan to supply condolences for Magufuli’s death. “The nation will remember him for his contribution to the event of our country,” Kabwe said during a statement published on Twitter.
Magufuli, from northwest Tanzania, first won the presidency in 2015 and had faced accusations from Western countries and opposition parties of eroding democracy. He was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” due to his reputation for pushing through policies despite opposition.
Magufuli declared Tanzania “Covid-19 free” last June. He mocked the efficacy of masks, expressed doubts about testing, and teased neighboring countries which imposed health measures to curb the virus.
Magufuli was last seen publicly on 27 February, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa insisted last week that the president was “healthy and dealing hard”.
On Monday, police said that that they had arrested four people on suspicion of spreading rumors on social media that the president was ill. “To spread rumours that he’s sick smacks of hate,” Mr. Majaliwa said at the time.