Tanzania's President John Magufuli dies at 61

President John Magufuli
President John Magufuli

Tanzania's President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country's vice-president has announced.

He died on Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, Samia Suluhu Hassan said in an announcement on state television. 

Mr Magufuli has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and rumours have been circulating about his health.

Opposition politicians said earlier this week that he had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.


Mr Magufuli was declared president on his 56th birthday in October 2015.

 

The Bulldozer 

John Pombe Magufuli, the son of a peasant farmer who became Tanzania's president in 2015, has died aged 61. Once praised for his no-nonsense approach, he went on to become a controversial leader, especially over his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He was elected for a second term in 2020 amid opposition accusations of fraud and intimidation. 

Before he was president he acquired the nickname "the bulldozer" for driving a programme to build roads as minister for works, and later was hailed for his anti-corruption stance and his distinct dislike for wasting money.

As president he was also accused of cracking down on dissent and curtailing certain freedoms, but following his death reflections on his time in power will be dominated by his idiosyncratic handling of Covid-19.

'Coronavirus is the devil'

When Covid-19 arrived in Tanzania, President Magufuli did not believe in people staying at home. He wanted them to get into the churches and mosques to pray.

"Coronavirus, which is a devil, cannot survive in the body of Christ... It will burn instantly," Magufuli, a devout Christian, pronounced from the altar of a church in the capital, Dodoma.

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