Tanzania’s Coronavirus-Skeptic President Magufuli dies at 61

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has died at the age of 61.

His death was announced on Wednesday on a national television by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who said Magufuli had died of heart complications while being treated at Mzena Hospital.

Magufuli had not been seen in public since February 27, sparking speculations on the possibility that he was infected with the coronavirus — reports that Tanzania’s senior government officials had repeatedly denied.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, he had downplayed the severity of the disease in his country.

The Vice President, Mrs. Suluhu, said burial arrangements were under way and announced 14 days of mourning and the flying of flags at half staff.

After Magufuli’s death was announced, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said he had spoken to Suluhu to offer condolences for his death.

“The nation will remember him for his contribution to the development of our country,” Kabwe said in a statement published on Twitter.

According to Tanzania’s Constitution, Vice President Suluhu 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. She would be the East African nation’s first female president.

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