Tanzanian President John Magufuli, 61, died Wednesday (17) of heart disease, as his deputy, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced in a statement on state broadcaster TBC.
Leader of a denial on the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, Magufuli had not been seen in public since February 27, which suggests that he had contracted the coronavirus.
According to Hassan’s statement, he was admitted to a hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was being treated for heart disease. The vice president announced a 14-day national mourning and said preparations for the burial were underway.
The government has always denied the report that Magufuli might be ill and insisted he was working normally. During a visit to a coastal town on Wednesday, Hassan sent greetings on behalf of the president and made no mention of the president’s state of health.
Magufuli was elected to a second five-year term in October, with 84% of the vote in an election which the opposition said was marked by irregularities.
The former chemistry professor adopted a denialist policy during the pandemic – he turned his back on coronavirus testing, denounced vaccines as part of a Western plot to take wealth from Africa, and opposed the use of masks and social detachment.
He went on to say that God and inhalation would protect the people. Tanzania stopped reporting coronavirus data in May of last year, when it had a total of 509 cases and 21 deaths, according to the WHO (World Health Organization).
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said on Friday (12) that he had spoken to the president and blamed some “hate” Tanzanians living abroad for the report that he was ill.
“The nation will be remembered for his contribution to the development of our country,” opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said on his social media.
Under the Tanzanian constitution, Vice President Hassan, 61, is expected to take over for the remainder of Magufuli’s term. She, who was once the first vice-woman in the country’s history, will now be the first president.
Born in the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, Hassan studied economics in England, worked at the UN and then held various government positions.