Tanzania President John Magufuli is dead.
In a televised address on Thursday night, Tanzania vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan said that Magufuli had died of a heart complication known technically as Chronic Atrial Fibrillation, a type of heart arrhythmia that causes the top chambers of the heart, the atria, to quiver and beat irregularly.
Hassan said that John Pombe Magufuli was hospitalized on 6th March at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute.
She also announced that the country would observe a 14-day period of mourning as arrangements for the burial are made.
This comes after weeks of speculation on his whereabouts with the suspicion that he had been hospitalized for Covid-19. There were rumours that he had been hospitalized at Nairobi Hospital in Kenya before being flown to India for specialized treatment.
If he has died of Covid-19 related complication, it will be an irony of sorts as President Magufuli was among few national leaders who downplayed the Coronavirus threat and declined to apply lockdowns to slow down infections.
He advocated for home remedies and steaming saying Covid-19 was a Western conspiracy and the vaccines were dangerous. “Let’s not panic,” he said at the heat of Covid-19 outbreak in East Africa as Kenya and Uganda imposed curfews and lockdowns. “Let’s continue working. Production should double.”
The bulldozer president
The son of a peasant farmer, John Pombe Magufuli became Tanzania’s president on his 56th birthday in 2015 and has gone on to be a controversial leader. Before he was president he acquired the nickname the bulldozer for driving a programme to build roads as minister for works, and later was hailed for his anti-corruption stance and his distinct dislike for wasting money.
But his time in power has attracted considerable criticism for changes that critics say threaten freedom of expression and business. On his first day in office in November 2015 he made a big impression.
He made a surprise visit to the finance ministry to check on how many people had actually turned up to work – sending a message that he would not tolerate the reputation Tanzanian civil servants have for absenteeism.
Five things about John Magufuli
- He is a former school teacher and industrial chemist
- Nicknamed “The Bulldozer”
- A devout Catholic with five children
- Performed push-ups on the campaign trail to prove he was fit
- Cancelled Independence Day celebrations to save money
Married with five children, Mr Magufuli was born in north-western Tanzania’s Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria.He has portrayed himself as a humble man who came from a poor background. “Our home was grass thatched and like many boys I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family,” he said on the campaign trail. “I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people’s welfare,” he added.
Once a maths and chemistry teacher, he went on to become an industrial chemist – and was awarded a doctorate in chemistry from Dar es Salaam University in 2009.
On the campaign trail he vowed that he would not tolerate corruption and refuted allegations by the opposition that was was physically unfit for the job by performing push-ups at rallies.
It did the job – Mr Magufuli won the poll with 58% of the votes to ex-Prime Minister Edward Lowassa’s 40% in a fiercely contested election.