President of Tanzania, John Magulfi has died aged 61 it has been announced today, with a television address to the nation on Wednesday evening. Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan gave the news, saying the president had died at 6pm today.
Mr Magufuli is Tanzania’s first president to die while in office, and 14 days of mourning with flags flying at half-mast will take place.
Announcing his death, Ms Hassan ended speculation of the President’s whereabouts, with Mr Magufuli not seen for weeks.
After the news, state television broadcast mournful and religious songs.
Mr Magulfi’s nickname was ‘The Bulldozer’ so-called for his force at pushing through policies, no matter the opposition.
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Mr Magufuli had first been admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but later was discharged, Ms Hassan said on state television.
However, he was taken urgently to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.
Opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said on Twitter: “The nation will remember him for his contribution to the development of our country.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his condolences on Twitter, writing: “I’m sorry to hear that @MagufuliJP, President of Tanzania, has passed away.
“My thoughts are with his loved ones and the people of Tanzania.”
In recent times, Mr Magufuli had frustrated the World Health Organization (WHO) during the pandemic by playing down the threat from COVID-19.
The Tanzanian president said god and remedies like steam inhalation would protect the nation.
A former chemistry teacher, Mr Magulufi had mocked coronavirus tests, denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa’s wealth, and opposed mask-wearing and social distancing.
He once said he had secretly sent samples of papaya and goat to testing centres and they came out positive.
Despite never giving any proof of his claims, Mr Magulufi used this to warn of false-positive Covid test results.
Tanzania stopped reporting coronavirus data in May last year when it had reported 509 cases and 21 deaths, according to the WHO, which has urged the government to be more transparent.
Despite Tanzania’s neighbour countries Kenya and Uganda enforcing strict lockdowns and curfews in response to coronavirus, President Magufuli sent shockwaves around the world by stating his country would remain open.
When asked about the closure of churches during the pandemic, Mr Magufuli said: “That’s where there is true healing. Corona is the devil and it cannot survive in the body of Jesus.”
President Magufuli was married to Janeth Magufuli, a primary school teacher, and the pair had three children together.
He was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1995, serving in various roles like Minister of Works, Minister of Lands and Human Settlement and Minister of Livestock and Fisheries.
Mr Magufuli was then put forward as the candidate of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the country’s dominant party, and won the October 2015 presidential election.
In July 2020, President Magufuli was nominated as the CCM’s presidential candidate and was re-elected to serve until 2025.