Tanzanian VP Confirms Death of President Magufuli, Aged 61, After Rumored COVID-19 Diagnosis
Evan Craighead . Sputnik International
20:53 GMT 17.03.2021(updated 21:58 GMT 17.03.2021)
Previously, Tanzanian President John Magufuli was rumored to be infected with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, as he remained out of public sight since late February. "I want to assure the Tanzanians that their president is fit and working hard as usual," Prime Minister Kassim Majaliw said last week amid reports of his death.
Tanzania's Vice President Samia Sulhu Hassan confirmed Wednesday that Magufuli, the fifth president of Tanzania, died around noon, following complications from a myocardial infarction, or heart attack.
"At around 12 p.m. [local time] we lost our courageous leader the President of the United Republic of Tanzania Hon. Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli who has died of a heart attack at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam," the vice president said, according to a Google translation.
Confirmation of the Magufuli's death comes a week after the country's prime minister urged Tanzanians to not listen to "fake news" reports regarding the status of the president's health.
At the time, outlets were reporting that Magufuli, an outspoken denier of the novel coronavirus' impact, was on a ventilator and being treated for COVID-19 at a Nairobi hospital.
Reports went on to allege the 61-year-old Tanzanian president was transferred to an Indian hospital while in a comatose state.
Magufuli received international attention in the past year for his unorthodox approach to the novel coronavirus and related mitigation measures. In addition to discouraging the use of face masks, the president also cited prayer as a method of prevention for the contagious disease.
The leader also received pushback from the US Embassy in Tanzania regarding the ethics and authenticity of the country's 2020 general election. According to the embassy, "irregularities and the overwhelming margins of victory raise serious doubts about the credibility of the results."
Magufuli was notably elected to another five-year presidential term in October 2020 after securing more than 84% of the popular vote. Many credited the historic victory to the fact that several candidates were disqualified, and those remaining were unable to campaign effectively due to government-instituted internet shutdowns.
"Those in power are telling Tanzanians, 'If you want change, look for it another way, not through the ballot box,'" said opposition candidate Tundu Lissu in October. Lissu, who survived a 2017 assassination attempt, argued that many eligible voters were turned away from the polls on election day.
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