Tanzania President John Pombe Magufuli is dead.
Magufuli’s death was announced on Wednesday night by Vice President Samia Suluhu days after his absence from the limelight sparked speculations that he had been flown to Kenya for Covid-19 treatment.
In a televised address Ms Suluhu said that Magufuli, 61, died of heart complications at about 6pm on Wednesday.
Ms Suluhu said that Magufuli was hospitalized on March 6 at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute. He died at the Mzena Hospital where he was transferred to after his condition deteriorated.
The VC announced Tanzania will observe 14 days of national mourning as burial arrangements begin.
The announcement comes a day after opposition party ACT Wazalendo mounted pressure on authorities in Tanzania to come clean on the President’s health status.
The President was last seen in public on February 27 when he swore in Dr Bashiru Ali at the Dar es Salaam State House, replacing John Kijazi, who died of a heart attack.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, ACT Wazelendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said that the opposition had confirmed beyond doubt that Magufuli was ill.
Kabwe said the party was saddened by the government’s handling of the matter of the health of the country’s chief executive following recent conflicting remarks by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and the Vice President.
Last week in Njombe District, Majaliwa told Muslim faithful at a prayer meeting that he had spoken to President Magufuli and asked the public to ignore any insinuations about his wellbeing.
On Monday, Ms Suluhu who was touring Tanga Region hinted Magufuli could be unwell.
“Both the assertions by the VP and the PM have only helped to intensify speculations about Magufuli’s health status and his whereabouts,” said Kabwe.
“ACT- Wazalendo calls upon the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to fully explain the mystery surrounding the absence of President John Pombe Magufuli who has uncharacteristically not been seen in public for over two weeks now.
“…the President’s absence has raised palpable public anxiety and tension which threatens the welfare of the country.”
The party asked authorities to tell Tanzanians the real situation of Magufuli’s condition and assure the republic about the continuity of the roles of his office as stipulated in the Constitution.
Last year, Magufuli attracted criticism over Tanzania’s approach to the fight against Covid-19. He is on record denying the existence of Coronavirus in the entire East African country.
He used public rallies and Sunday church services to encourage Tanzanians to use steam therapy and other traditional methods to keep the virus, which he claimed had been defeated by “prayers”, at bay.
In January this year, he discouraged Tanzanians from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Western countries.
Magufuli claimed that Tanzanians who had been vaccinated against Covid-19 in other countries “brought a strange variant” back home.
Whereas the authorities in Tanzania didn’t mention Covid-19 as the President’s cause of death, it’s suspected that he succumbed to complications related to the disease he spent months denying its existence.
Magufuli, who was sworn in for a second term in office in November last year, was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” because of his reputation for pushing through policies despite opposition.
Born on October 29, 1959, in Chato Tanzania, Magufuli is survived by his wife Janet his daughter Jessica and son Joseph.