How did the first president die

Tanzania's President John Magufuli is dead - the populist had declared his country a corona-free zone

His disappearance from the public eye had sparked wild speculation. According to official information, he died of heart failure on Wednesday.

Tanzania's President John Magufuli is dead. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced this in a speech on state television on Wednesday evening. Magufuli died of heart failure on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Dar es Salaam. He was 61 years old.

The president had disappeared from the public eye since late February, sparking much speculation. Opposition politicians wanted to know that Magufuli had Covid-19 and was being treated in Kenya. The Kenyan media also reported that Tanzania's president was being treated in a private hospital in Nairobi. Tanzanian officials said the president was fine.

Magufuli achieved dubious international fame during the corona pandemic because he declared his country a corona-free zone. Tanzania last provided data to the World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of April 2020; officially, the East African country with almost 60 million inhabitants has only 509 infections. In June 2020, the devout Magufuli declared at a church service that Tanzania had defeated the virus thanks to God's help. Calls by the WHO that Tanzania should continue to provide data went unheeded. The government also refused to procure vaccine for the population.

Doubts about the official justification

During her televised address, Vice President Hassan said that Magufuli was hospitalized on March 6, but was later released. On March 14th, he was admitted again because he felt uncomfortable. He died three days later.

After the president's death became known, new speculation circulated that a corona infection had played a role. The opposition leader Tundu Lissu said in a television interview that the government was still lying: he knew from well-informed sources that Magufuli had died earlier - from Covid-19.

It was known that Magufuli had heart problems in the past. According to various media reports, he had a pacemaker.

Magufuli was elected president in 2015; he promised to fight corruption and advance infrastructure projects - including a railway line and expressways. During his presidency, Tanzania was one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa with annual growth of around 6 percent.

Magufuli ruled increasingly authoritarian, he controlled the media and civil society. The non-governmental organization “Reporters Without Borders” writes on its website that no other country has taken such a sharp setback in terms of press freedom in recent years as Tanzania has since Magufuli's election.

In October 2020, Magufuli was re-elected in a controversial election, he won with 84 percent of the vote. He died just five months later.

Nickname "bulldozer"

The future president was born in 1959 to small farmers in the north-west of the country. He studied mathematics and chemistry, worked as a teacher and industrial chemist and received his doctorate. He was elected to parliament for the first time in 1995 and was Minister of Infrastructure from 2000 to 2006 and from 2010 to 2015. He became popular because of the uncompromising way in which he pushed projects - his nickname was "Bulldozer".

According to the Tanzanian constitution, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan is to take over the presidency for the remainder of the five-year term of office. Hassan will be the first female head of state in East Africa. She studied economics in Manchester, later worked for the UN's World Food Program and held various government offices. Like Magufuli, she is 61 years old.

Magufuli is the second East African president to have passed away since the beginning of the corona pandemic; Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza died in June 2020. Like Magufuli, Nkurunziza was a corona skeptic. The Burundian government named a heart attack as the cause of death - but there was also speculation with Nkurunziza that he had Covid-19 before his death.