Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died, the country’s vice president announced, after weeks of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts.
In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the 61-year-old president had died of a “heart condition”, which he had suffered for 10 years at a hospital in Dar-Es-Salaam.
Magufuli had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said on state television. But he was rushed to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.
After the death was announced, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said he had spoken to Hassan to offer condolences for Magufuli’s death.
“The nation will remember him for his contribution to the development of our country,” Kabwe said in a statement published on Twitter.
Opposition politicians said last week that he had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.
Magufuli was one of Africa’s most prominent rising leaders with a hard stance against corruption and had a deep belief in the power of God.
Magufuli had long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray, use steam inhalation and embrace local remedies to protect themselves from the respiratory disease.
Tanzania stopped releasing infection numbers in April 2020, weeks before Magufuli declared in June that the country was coronavirus-free due to divine intervention.
He refused to wear a face-mask or take lockdown measures. But a week before he was last seen, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating, after the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died of COVID-19.
The president had also released a statement against Tanzanians opting in for the covid19 vaccine that is now being distributed across the world.
According to Tanzania’s Constitution, Hassan, 61, should assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year term that Magufuli began serving last year after winning a second term.