Tanzanian President John Magufuli dies at 61 | News on the coronavirus pandemic

Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan announces the death of 61-year-old after weeks of uncertainty over her health and whereabouts.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died, the country’s vice president said, after weeks of uncertainty about his health and where he is.

In a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the 61-year-old president died of “heart disease”, which he suffered for 10 years in a hospital in Dar-Es- Salaam.

Magufuli was first briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Heart Institute on March 6, but was later released, Hassan said on state television. But he was taken to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.

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

“The nation will be remembered for his contribution to the development of our country,” Kabwe said in a statement posted on Twitter.

According to the Tanzanian constitution, Hassan, 61, is expected to serve as president for the remainder of the five-year term that Magufuli began serving last year after winner a second term.

Skeptical of COVID-19, Magufuli last appeared in public on February 27 and senior government officials denied he was in poor health, even as rumors circulated online that he was ill and possibly being unable to fight the disease.

Magufuli had long played down the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and adopt local remedies to protect themselves from respiratory illness.

Tanzania stopped publishing infection figures 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 action. But a week before his last sight, Magufuli admitted the virus was still circulating, after the semi-autonomous Zanzibar vice president was revealed to have died from COVID-19.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, Magufuli was elected in 2015 on the promise of fighting corruption and boosting infrastructure development. He won a second term in a controversial poll last year.

However, his government has been accused by rights groups of stifling democracy and cracking down on the media.

Critics have accused Magufuli that his rejection of the threat of COVID-19, as well as his refusal to lock down the country, may have contributed to many unknown deaths.

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