Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who was an anti-corruption populist known as ‘The Bulldozer’, was declared dead after disappearing from public for almost three weeks. He was criticized in the media for questioning the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, rejecting Covid lockdowns and demanding more safety testing of Covid vaccines. Magufull held a doctorate degree in chemistry and made headlines last May when he said that samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw (papaya fruit) tested positive for Covid-19. He described the tests as a “dirty game”. Under Magufuli’s leadership, scores of infrastructure programs were launched, and Tanzania became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In July, the World Bank categorized it as a middle-income country five years ahead of schedule. The media described his refusal to enact Covid policies as his “most damning failure” that serves as a “cautionary tale”. These news reports are loaded with innuendos that Magufull was despicable and probably died of Covid. –GEG
President John Magufuli of Tanzania, a prominent COVID-19 skeptic in Africa whose populist rule often cast his East African country in a harsh international spotlight, has died. He was 61 years old.
Magufuli’s death was announced on Wednesday by Vice President Samia Suluhu, who said the president died of heart failure.
“Our beloved president passed on at 6 p.m. this evening,” said Suluhu on national television. “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.”
The vice president said that Magufuli died at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, the Indian Ocean port that is Tanzania’s largest city.
Although the vice president said the cause of Magufuli’s death was heart failure, opposition politicians had earlier alleged that he was sick from COVID-19.
Magufuli had not been seen in public since the end of February and top government officials had denied that he was in ill health even as rumors swirled online that he was sick and possibly incapacitated from illness.
Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent deniers of COVID-19. He had said last year that Tanzania had eradicated the disease through three days of national prayer. Tanzania has not reported its COVID-19 tallies of confirmed cases and deaths to African health authorities since April 2020.
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