Country swears in first woman leader
By Ricky Browne
Covid-19 has claimed the scalp of one of its largest deniers – President John Magulfi of Tanzania – who died earlier this week.
Tanzania has stood out as one of the main pandemic-deniers of Covid-19, not just in Africa but across the globe. So the sudden death of its president, presumably from Covid, shouldn’t come as a great surprise.
President John Magulfi won a second term in a disputed election in October, but died this week, officially from a heart problem. His position has now been taken over by his Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who has already taken the oath of office.
But it is widely believed that 61-year-old Magulfi in fact died from the coronavirus. He had been absent from the public eye for 18 days prior to his death, and was rumoured to be receiving treatment for Covid in India. Several other members of his government are also believed to have been infected by the disease.
Hassan, who is from the island of Zanzibar and who went to Manchester University in the UK, is apparently not one of them. She is the only female head of state in Africa at the moment – except for Ethiopia, but its President Sahle-Work Zewde holds a mainly a ceremonial role. Hassan, who is also 61, is the ninth woman to lead any African nation since Sylvie Kinigi in Burundi in 1993.
“The president of the United Republic of Tanzania, the honourable Dr John Pombe Joseph Magufuli … [has] died of a heart condition, at hospital Mzena in Dar es Salaam, where he was receiving treatment,” Hassan told the nation.
Hassan could remain in power until 2025, which would have been the end of Magufuli’s second five-year term.
Tanzania took the position last year that there was nothing to fear from Covid-19, and to help lull people into a false sense of security, they simply stopped counting cases and deaths.
As a result, the number of cases has remained the same from April 2020.
Covid-19 has so far killed some 2.7 million people across the globe.
NOT THE FIRST
Magulfi wasn’t the first head of government to be hit by the disease.
One of the first was UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who up to the time of getting the disease appeared to be fairly nonchalant about it.
US President Donald Trump seemed to be taking unnecessary risks when he too caught the disease. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who was a bit of a denier himself, caught the disease as well.
But all three leaders and others too survived being hit.
Magulfi was not so lucky. But his denial of the disease was bigger than most.
Magufuli simply denied that the disease was being spread in Tanzania, there was no need for face mask, discouraged the mention of the disease by health workers, and stated that vaccines were dangerous. He recommended that people should pray and inhale herb-infused steam.
The “satanic virus can’t live in the body of Jesus Christ,” Magulfi said, in a country which is 35 percent Muslim – as is new president Hassan.
In June, Magufuli declared that Tanzania was now free from COVID-19 thanks to the power of prayer and God’s intervention.
In January, Magulfi warned against believing in vaccines.
“You should stand firm. Vaccinations are dangerous. If the White man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for AIDS by now; he would have found a vaccination [for] tuberculosis by now; he would have found a vaccination for malaria by now; he would have found a vaccination for cancer by now”, Magulfi was reported as saying.
Not everyone is sympathetic to Magulfi’s death. The main opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, who survived 16 bullets in an assassination attempt in 2017, said from exile in Belgium that Magulfi’s death was “poetic justice.”
“What should I say? It is poetic justice. President Magufuli defied the world on the struggle against corona (…) He defied science,” he told AFP.
“What has happened, happened. He went down with corona,” he said.
According to Tanzania, the country with a population of about 58 million people, has had only 509 cases since the disease was first discovered, and a total of 21 deaths. But the country stopped counting on May 10. The WHO has accepted this lie at face value in its global statistics.
South Africa, with a similar-sized population, has had about 50,000 deaths during the same period.
Just before going off line, on April 29, 2020, the country saw its daily number of new cases jump to 181 in one day. On the day that it stopped counting the country registered 29 new cases and five new deaths.
The Tanzanian Ministry of Health announced on May 8, that the government had suspended reporting Covid-10 figures because of work that it said was currently taking place at the National Health Laboratories. It said that once the improvements were completed, official reporting would resume.
Almost 11 months later, the country had not put in those improvements, and the numbers remained the same.
Meanwhile, Tanzania is now in a two-week mourning period, with flags flying at half mask. The new president was seen wearing a mask recently, and that could be an indication that the country is finally ready to face the reality of the pandemic.
A first step may be to now acquire some of the previously derided vaccines.