Tanzania’s president John Magufuli, who long denied that Covid-19 posed a threat to his country, has died after a mysterious two-week illness, the vice-president said on Wednesday night.
Magufuli, 61, disappeared from public view on February 27, raising speculation that he had contracted Covid-19, though Kassim Majaliwa, the prime minister, insisted last week that the president was “healthy and working hard”.
At least four people were arrested for spreading rumours the president was ill, part of a pattern of repression against journalists who criticised Magufuli or his policies.
On Wednesday night, Salim Suluhu Hassan, the vice-president, went on state television to announce that Magufuli had died. “Dear Tanzanians, it is sad to announce that today 17 March 2021 around 6pm we lost our brave leader, President John Magufuli, who died from heart illness,”.
Under the constitution, Hassan is expected to assume the presidency, though the silence during Magufuli’s illness had raised speculation that a power struggle was in progress.