Tanzania gets first female president after death of Magufuli

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Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died aged 61 from a heart condition, his vice president said after days of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that today on the 17th of March, 2021 at 6 pm we lost our brave leader, the President of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli, said Vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan in a televised address to the nation last night.

She said Magufuli had died of a “heart condition”, which he has suffered for a decade, at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

He had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said.

But Magufuli had again felt unwell and was on March 14 rushed to hospital again.

Confirmation of Magufuli’s death comes after weeks of uncertainty and wild rumours over his absence, as he was last seen in public on February 27.

Opposition leader Tundu Lissu had raised questions about his health, citing sources that the president was suffering from Covid-19.

Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015 and then again in a disputed poll last year, had for months insisted the virus no longer existed in Tanzania, and had been fended off by prayer.

He refused to wear a face-mask or take lockdown measures.

But a week before he was last seen, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating, after the vice-president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died of Covid-19.

According to Tanzania’s Constitution, Vice President Hassan, 61, should assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year term that Magufuli began serving last year after winning a second term.

A vocal COVID-19 sceptic, Magufuli had last appeared in public on February 27 and top government officials had denied that he was in ill health, even as speculation swirled online that he was sick and possibly incapacitated from illness.

Read Also: Where is Tanzania’s President John Magufuli?

Magufuli had long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local remedies to protect themselves from the respiratory disease.

Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through divine intervention.

He refused to wear a face-mask or take lockdown measures. But a week before he was last seen, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating, after the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died of COVID-19.