Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, is dead. The leader popularly known as the ‘Bulldozer’ passed on Wednesday, March 17th.
At the time of Magufuli’s death, he was 61. He was quite controversial for his denial of the coronavirus pandemic.
His death comes only five months after he won a second term in a disputed election. He was 61.
“We have lost our courageous leader, President John Magufuli, who has died from a heart illness,” Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on state television on Wednesday.
Magufuli fell ill on March 14 and had been receiving treatment at a hospital in Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital, she said.
Before his death, Magufuli hadn’t been seen in public since the 24th of February. This increased the speculations on social media that he was critically ill. Opposition leader, Tundu Lissu said on Twitter last week that the president had COVID-19.
His statement was rebutted by Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, who urged citizens to ignore “baseless social media rumors.”
His aggressive leadership method fetched him the nickname, ‘The Bulldozer’. In his early days as Tanzania’s president, Magufuli was hailed for his efforts in tackling corruption, reducing wasteful government spending and improving the lives of poor farmers by waiving dozens of taxes.
He also spearheaded the development of new transport links, power plants and more than 1,700 health centers, investments that helped Tanzania’s economy become one of the world’s top performers.
However, Magufuli’s authoritarianism became more obvious as he centralized power in the presidency and unapologetically cracked down on dissent and media freedom.
He secured a second five-year term in October when he garnered 84% of the vote, the widest victory margin of any presidential candidate in almost three decades of multiparty elections in Tanzania.
The opposition rejected the outcome as rigged and the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania said credible allegations of fraud and intimidation, as well as the ruling party’s overwhelming win, raised questions about the election’s fairness. Several opposition candidates were disqualified from standing and the government instituted internet and social media site shutdowns that hampered its opponents’ campaigns.
Opposition leader, Zitto Kabwe has sent his condolences to Magufuli’s family and to Hassan, who is set to become the first woman president in the six-nation East African Community.
Born on Oct. 29, 1959, in the northwestern town of Chato, Magufuli worked as a teacher and industrial chemist before venturing into politics. He won election to parliament in 1995 and also held several cabinet posts before the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party chose him as its candidate to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete in 2015.
Magufuli refused to accept the existence of the Coronavirus pandemic in Tanzania as he maintained that the country was free of the disease. He also discouraged the use of face masks and advised his people to pray and undergo steam therapy to safeguard their health.
His administration also kicked against vaccination and said it was working on developing alternative natural remedies.
The President-elect, Hassan has announced 14 days of national mourning.