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John Magufuli

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Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country’s Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan has announced.

John Magufuli died on March 17 from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, the vice-president said in an address on state TV.

He had not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and rumors had been circulating about his health.

Opposition politicians said last week that John Magufuli had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.

President Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus skeptics, and called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that today… we lost our brave leader, the president of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli,” Vice-President Hassan said in the announcement.

She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half mast.

According to Tanzania’s constitution, VP Hassan will be sworn in as the new president within 24 hours and should serve the remainder of John Magufuli’s five-year term which he began last year.

Tanzania Elections 2015: John Pombe Magufuli Wins Presidency

John Magufuli was last seen in public on February 27, but PM Kassim Majaliwa insisted last week that the president was “healthy and working hard”.

The prime-minister blamed the rumors of the president’s ill-health on “hateful” Tanzanians living abroad.

When Covid-19 arrived in Tanzania, President Magufuli called on people to go to churches and mosques to pray.

“Coronavirus, which is a devil, cannot survive in the body of Christ… It will burn instantly,” the president said.

John Magufuli declared Tanzania “Covid-19 free” in June 2020, saying the virus had been eradicated by three days of national prayer.

He also mocked the efficacy of masks, expressed doubts about testing, and teased neighboring countries which imposed health measures to curb the virus.

“Countries in Africa will be coming here to buy food in the years to come… they will be suffering because of shutting down their economy,” President Magufuli said, according to the Associated Press.

Tanzania has not published details of its coronavirus cases since May 2020, and the government has refused to purchase vaccines.

John Pombe Magufuli has won Tanzania’s presidential election with 58% of the vote, the electoral commission says.

His main rival, opposition Ukawa coalition candidate Edward Lowassa has rejected the official results that gave him 40% of the ballots cast.

Edward Lowassa earlier claimed he had won with 62% of the vote.

The elections on October 25 were the most fierce John Magufuli’s governing CCM party faced after 54 years in power.

In Zanzibar, elections for the semi-autonomous archipelago’s parliament and president were annulled on October 28.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

Zanzibar’s election chief Jecha Salum Jecha said the poll had been marred by gross irregularities, including rigging and physical fights between rival election commissioners.

CCM supporters have been celebrating John Magufuli’s victory outside the party’s headquarters in Tanzania’s main city, Dar es Salaam.

Incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete, who is standing down after two terms in office, retweeted a CCM photo of John Magufuli and the accompanying words: “Our next Commander-in-Chief, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, the President-elect of The United Republic of Tanzania.”

EU observers said that the elections were “generally well organized” but “with insufficient efforts at transparency from the election administrations”.

Teams from the African Union and southern African regional body SADC said that the vote had largely been “free and fair”, despite all groups raising concerns over the subsequent annulment of Zanzibar’s local elections.

Tanzanians are expected to polls in the country’s most tightly contested general elections, as a new opposition coalition tries to end the governing party’s 54-year grip on power.

There has been a high turnout at voting stations, reports say.

Opinion polls have put the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party ahead, but the result is expected to be close.

Four opposition groups are backing one candidate, a former prime minister, in the presidential race.

Some of the major issues for the almost 23 million registered voters include access to clean water, improved health care and better education.

President Jakaya Kikwete, who is standing down after two terms, has called for peace ahead of the election, adding that “anyone who tries to cause trouble will be dealt with”.John Magufuli introduced by Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete

The CCM was formed in 1977 from a merger of two post-colonial parties and has effectively been in power since independence in 1961.

Tanzania’s works minister, John Magufuli, 55, has promised change and to improve on the pace of progress laid down by the previous CCM government.

John Magufuli has promised to end the country’s power shortages and exploit Tanzania’s natural gas discoveries.

“My government will put emphasis on fighting corruption, job creation and industrialization,” he said on October 24.

John Magufuli is nicknamed The Bulldozer for driving a program to build roads across Tanzania.

Ukawa coalition’s candidate Edward Lowassa, 62, decided to leave the CCM when it did not pick him as its presidential candidate earlier this year. Four opposition parties rallied behind Edward Lowassa as a coalition candidate.

“We must stop being a nation of beggars,” he told a rally on October 24.

“It is a shame for Tanzania to still be poor after 54 years of independence.”

Edward Lowassa has already served as prime minister, but had to resign over a corruption scandal in the energy sector. He continues to deny involvement in the scandal.