THE STAR 03/19/2021
Tanzanian President John Magufuli.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli, nicknamed the Bulldozer, could have died on Thursday last week, but the announcement delayed for almost a week.
Opposition leader Tundu Lissu who is in exile in Belgium told the Star that, "My sources confirmed that Magufuli died in Kenya on Thursday and his body was moved back to Tanzania to await transition plans."
Succession intrigues could have delayed the announcement as the country's spy agency—Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services — tightly held information about Magufuli's health and whereabouts.
There are reports Magufuli was admitted at The Nairobi Hospital until March 10 when he was quietly transferred to Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam.
It is at this facility where Tanzanian authorities formally announced Magufuli had died on Wednesday evening.
Reports emerged of a quiet power struggle soon after Magufuli's death, which could have delayed the formal announcement.
According to Tanzania's constitution, Samia Suluhu Hassan, 61, who was Magufuli's vice president, takes over for the remainder of the five-year-term.
However, there are claims that some influential people within the establishment could have been uncomfortable with Suluhu, who hails from Zanzibar, from ascending to presidency.
Exiled Tanzanian opposition leader Lissu publicly disputed government claims that Magufuli died on Wednesday evening.
"Magufuli did not die this evening (Wednesday). I had information from the same sources that told me he was gravely ill. I have information Magufuli has been dead,” Lissu said.
Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga appeared to allude to the squabbles as he mourned the death of his friend.
He asked the Tanzanian authorities to observe the constitution to the letter.
“I appeal to the nation to fall back on the tradition set by Mwalimu Nyerere and followed meticulously by predecessors of a peaceful, orderly and constitutional transfer of power,” Raila said.
The ODM boss said that the tradition of peaceful and orderly transfer of power, brotherhood and constitutionalism needed to hold in Tanzania “now more than ever” in the interest of the peaceful and friendly people of Tanzania, the EAC and Africa.
Deputy president William Ruto when he was received in Tanzania by the late president John Pombe Magufuli
Tanzania opposition leader Zitto Kabwe called for the immediate swearing in of Suluhu to avoid a constitutional vacuum.
“The VP has to be sworn in immediately,” Kabwe told Reuters by phone from Dar es Salaam on Thursday morning.
“The constitution doesn’t allow a vacuum, once it was official that the president has died, the next step was for the vice president to be sworn in.”
Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics.
In her announcement, Suluhu said the President succumbed to a heart-related complication that had plagued him for over a decade.
She made no mention of Covid-19, a scourge that has hit Tanzania hard and claimed top government officials.
There have been speculations for weeks that Magufuli had himself contracted the virus. This coupled with his heart conditions made his survival chances very slim.
“ Magufuli died of corona," Lissu said from Belgium.
“I have received the news of President John Magufuli’s passing without any surprise, to be honest. I had expected this all along from March 7 when I first tweeted about it,” he said.
Last week, Lissu claimed that Magufuli had been admitted at a hospital in Nairobi and that he was being treated for Covid-19.
Magufuli died aged 61, hardly five months after assuming office for his second term.
Magufuli's critics accused him of cracking down on dissent and curtailing certain freedoms.
However, some lauded him for his anti-corruption stance and his distinct dislike for wasting money.
To some, he was seen as an efficient, incorruptible leader whose result-oriented actions and approach earned him a great deal of praise, inspiring the Twitter hashtag: #WhatWouldMagufuliDo.
Just before his election as President, Magufuli had acquired the nickname the Bulldozer for driving a programme to build roads as Minister for Works.
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he participated in a virtual meeting of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State and Government convened by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
Magufuli, who grew up under Nyerere's rule in a village in north-western Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria, had said his modest background inspired his own desire to work for Tanzania.
"Our home was grass-thatched, and like many boys I was assigned to herd cattle, as well as selling milk and fish to support my family," he said during his 2015 campaign.
"I know what it means to be poor. I will strive to help improve people's welfare," he added.
On the very first day of his presidency, Magufuli sent shock waves in the civil service when he visited the Finance ministry offices, asking for the whereabouts of those not at work.
He purged thousands of so-called "ghost workers" from the public payroll, and fired officials considered corrupt or under-performing, in public. Sometimes this was even done on live television.
And he clamped down on what he saw as extravagant spending, cancelling Independence Day celebrations for the first time in 54 years.
Instead, he ordered a public clean-up, getting his own hands dirty by picking up rubbish outside State House.
However, it was his scepticism of the ravaging coronavirus that threw Magufuli into more controversy.
He did not believe in people staying at home. He wanted them to get into the churches and mosques to pray.
"Coronavirus, which is a devil, cannot survive in the body of Christ... It will burn instantly," Magufuli, a devout Christian, pronounced from the altar of a church in the capital, Dodoma.
Since June 2020, when he declared the country "Covid-19 free", the president, along with other top government officials, mocked the efficacy of masks and doubted if testing worked.
His critics believe he could have succumbed to Covi-19 related complications.
However, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa then denied the claims, blaming the narrative on “hateful” Tanzanians living abroad.
Lissu who was the Chadema Party presidential candidate in the last election said the country needs to move forward and that he was ready to return home to be part of it.
“And our position is we cannot afford to continue with Magufulism without Magufuli,” he said.
He went on: “I know her (Suluhu) enough to suggest that temperamentally she’s a completely different ball game from Magufuli,” he said.
Once sworn in Suluhu will open a new chapter as the first ever female president of Tanzania.
She had broken the glass ceiling earlier when she became the only female holding executive power in the region as vice president since Uganda’s Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, 1994 to 2003.
Although Suluhu, publicly championed Magufuli’s leadership style and frequently represented him abroad, she is seen as more soft spoken and less confrontational.
Suluhu was born in Zanzibar and plunged in politics in 2000 when she was elected as a special seat member to the Zanzibar House of Representatives.