Tanzania’s president dies aged 61 after health rumours

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country’s vice-president has announced.

BBC reports that he died on Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Mr Magufuli had not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and rumours have been circulating about his health.

Opposition politicians said last week that he had contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that today… we lost our brave leader, the president of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli,” Vice-President Hassan said in the announcement.

She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half mast.

Mr Magufuli was declared president on his 56th birthday in October 2015. He was elected for a second term following a disputed poll last year.

He was one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics, and called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.

Tanzania has not published details of its coronavirus cases since May, and the government has refused to purchase vaccines.

Mr Magufuli was last seen in public on 27 February, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa insisted last week that the president was “healthy and working hard”.

He blamed the rumours of the president’s ill-health on “hateful” Tanzanians living abroad.

But opposition leader Tundu Lissu told the BBC that his sources had told him Mr Magufuli was being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya.

On Monday, police said they had arrested four people on suspicion of spreading rumours on social media that the president was ill.

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