Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies at 61

EYEAFRICA TV: Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA:- Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has died at the age of 61, the country’s vice president announced on Wednesday.

The announcement comes following weeks of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts.

In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said Magufuli had died of a “heart condition”, at a hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam.

“Our beloved president passed on at 6 p.m. this evening,” said Suluhu. “All flags will be flown at half-mast for 14 days. It is sad news. The president has had this illness for the past 10 years.”

According to Hassan, Magufuli was initially admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged. But he was rushed to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.

After the death was announced, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said he had spoken to Hassan to offer condolences for Magufuli’s death.

“The nation will remember him for his contribution to the development of our country,” Kabwe said in a statement published on Twitter.

According to Tanzania’s Constitution, Hassan, 61, should assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year term that Magufuli began serving last year after winning a second term.

A vocal COVID-19 sceptic, Magufuli had last appeared in public on February 27 and 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 in June that the country was coronavirus-free due to 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.

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