DAR ES SALAAM -The death of the fifth president of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli on March 17,2021 at the age of 61 symbolized heroism buried by denial. Born on October 29, 1959 and coming into power in 2015, Magufuli was recognized as one of Africa’s most prominent Covid deniers.

According to official reports, Magufuli died from heart disease at Mzena hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was getting treatment. He defeated Tundu Lissu in the Tanzania presidential elections last October to win a second five-year term in office.

Magufuli was a hands-on leader whose mantra of Hapa Kazi Tu (Work is My Only Focus) earned him followers as he delivered on Tanzania’s various national infrastructural projects in time. His anti-corruption stunt and cost containment philosophy made him popular with citizens, and created enemies for him in government, especially after the 2017 Tanzania mining sector corruption shake-up.  

It is Magufuli’s Covid denials that made his last days unpopular. After confirming its first case of coronavirus in March 2020, Magufuli called for 3 days of national prayer, urging citizens not to depend on face masks. As cases rose, Magufuli banned the Health ministry from publishing official case numbers on 29 April.

Two months later, Magufuli claimed that there was no more coronavirus in Tanzania. Fast forward to 2021, global cases of Covid-19 ascend, the vice president of Zanzibar dies from the pandemic, celebrities die too, Magufuli admits that Covid-19 exists in February 2021. The last time Magufuli was seen in public – February 27.

Three weeks of uncertainty and speculation over Magufuli’s health followed, leading to his death on 17 March 2021. Even is death, Magufuli courted controversy, with official reports saying he died from heart disease, whilst his nemesis allege that he succumbed to coronavirus. What is certain though is that Magufuli died after seeing the light and he will be remembered as a man who lived and died by his own principles.

Tanzania has sworn in Samia Suluhu Hassan as president of Tanzania for the remainder of the 5-year term that Magufuli began serving last year, making her the first female state leader in East Africa.

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