Tanzania’s Coronavirus-denying President John Magufuli Dies
Tanzania’s Coronavirus-denying President John Magufuli Dies John Magufuli

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, a COVID-19 sceptic and an avowed anti-vaxxer whose absence from public view for over two weeks fuelled frenzied speculation on his whereabouts and health, has died, the country's vice-president announced on Wednesday (Mar 17) night.

“Dear Tanzanians, it is sad to announce that today 17 March 2021 around 6 p.m. we lost our brave leader, President John Magufuli who died from heart disease at Mzena hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was getting treatment," the vice president said on state broadcaster TBC.

Magufuli, a 61-year-old leader nicknamed “The Bulldozer,” was last seen in public on February 27 looking his normal self as he swore in a new chief secretary at State House in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

A leading daily in Kenya had reported that Magufuli was being treated for COVID-19 on a ventilator at Nairobi Hospital, a private hospital in the Kenyan capital.

Magufuli, a former chemistry teacher, had mocked coronavirus tests, denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa's wealth, and opposed mask-wearing and social distancing. He had declared Covid-19 vaccines dangerous and unnecessary. A devout Catholic, he has said God would protect his nation from the disease.

"If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids, cancer and TB by now," said Magufuli, who has often projected himself as standing up to Western imperialism.

Magufuli also urged Tanzanians to use steam inhalation and herbal medicines to keep themselves safe from virus.

Tanzania also stopped reporting coronavirus data in May last year when it said it had 509 cases and 21 deaths.

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