Tanzania’s President John Magufuli caused a worldwide stir with his handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is still unclear whether his sudden death is related to COVID-19.
The Term of Office of President John Magufuli
The autocratic President John Magufuli was born on 29 October 1959 and came to power in 2015. He was appointed to his second term in 2020. The re-election was controversial. Accusations of electoral fraud were raised during the election and the opposition did not want to recognise the election. Protests, however, were suppressed.
Due to his uncompromising governance, Magufuli was also nicknamed the “bulldozer”. Several human rights organisations had regularly condemned his repressive political course and claimed to have recorded a deterioration of human rights in Tanzania in recent years.
Health Condition and Sudden Death
It was known that the president had suffered from a chronic cardiac arrhythmia for decades. After John Magufuli was last seen in public on 27 February 2021, much speculation had already arisen as to whether he was suffering from COVID-19. Because before that, he showed himself almost daily at events or on television. According to official information, the head of state died of heart failure on 17 March 2021 in hospital in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was 61 years old.
Controversial Handling of the Coronavirus Pandemic
The populist head of state was considered one of the best-known COVID-19 deniers in Africa. On the one hand, he long questioned the existence of the coronavirus and, on the other, downplayed the danger of COVID-19. Instead of hygiene and protection measures, Magufuli recommended healing herbs, steam baths and prayers.
He also called on the Ministry of Health to be careful with the Coronavirus vaccines developed abroad. Magufuli doubted the effectiveness of the vaccine due to its rapid development. Figures on new infections in Tanzania have not been published since May 2020.
Instead of a negative COVID-19 test and several days of quarantine, the head of state opened Tanzania to tourism. It was only in February 2021 that he called for the wearing of domestically produced face masks.
What Are the Political Developments in Tanzania?
By constitution, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan will assume the highest office until the next election in 2025. She is the first woman to ever take this position in Tanzania. Hopes are growing for a more democratic future for Tanzania under the new president.