Tanzania’s main opposition leader Tundu Lissu said Tanzania’s President John Magufuli died from the coronavirus last Wednesday.
Tanzania has been plunged into sadness over the death of President John Magufuli with the country flying flags at half-mast and 14 days of mourning after the vice president announced on Wednesday he died of heart complications.
Magufuli’s death comes after weeks of uncertainty over his health and rumours swirling that the coronavirus sceptic had in fact contracted the virus.
The government had Magufuli was ill as pressure mounted to explain his almost three-week absence from public view.
As condolences poured in, Tanzania’s main opposition leader Tundu Lissu described Magufuli’s death as “poetic justice”, insisting his sources said he had succumbed to Covid-19.
“Magufuli died of corona. That is one. Number two, Magufuli did not die this evening. I have information from basically the same sources which told me he was gravely ill, I have information that Magufuli has been dead since Wednesday of last week,” he told Kenya’s KTN News, using local slang for the virus.
Lissu spoke from Belgiu, where he is exiled.
“What should I say? It is poetic justice. President Magufuli defied the world on the struggle against corona… He defied science… And what has happened, happened. He went down with corona.”
Several people were arrested this week for spreading rumours over Magufuli’s ill-health on social media.
Magufuli has been playing down the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming Tanzania had freed itself from the Covid” through prayer.
He also rejected any lockdowns or measures such as mask-wearing.
“That’s why we are all not wearing face masks here. You think we don’t fear dying? It’s because there is no Covid-19,” he said.
But Magufuli later admitted what he called a “respiratory disease” was still circulating.
Many Tanzanian officials have died, often without the cause of their death being specified.
Among them, the first vice-president of the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, Seif Sharif Hamad, who died in mid-February. His party said he had contracted Covid-19.
Tanzania has not published data on coronavirus since April 2020.