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Did Tanzania’s Covid-denying leader die of the coronavirus? It’s one of many questions he leaves behind

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Samia Suluhu Hassan said Magufuli had received treatment at a hospital in Tanzania when he died on Wednesday evening.

However, opposition leaders insist Magufuli died of Covid-19 at least a week earlier.

Opposition party Chadema’s Tundu Lissu said on Thursday in an interview with a Kenyan broadcaster that Magufuli had died of Covid in early March.

“I received news of President Magufuli’s passing without any surprises,” he added.

“I had been waiting for him all along, from the first day I tweeted on March 7 … when I asked the question” Where is President Magufuli and what is his state of health? “I had information from very credible government sources that the president was seriously ill with Covid-19 and that his situation was very bad,” Lissu said from his base in Belgium. CNN has contacted Lissu for further comments.

CNN has not been able to verify its claims independently. Tanzanian authorities also did not respond to calls for comment on Lissu’s claims.

Magufuli was last seen in public on February 27, feeding intense speculation about his health. Officials, however, insisted he was healthy.
“Tanzanians should be at peace. Your president is close, thank you for voting for him recently. He is healthy, he works hard, he plans the country,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told local media March 12th.

According to Maria Sarungi Tsehai, activist and founder of the #ChangeTanzania movement, a civil society group that promotes freedom of expression, secrecy and the mystery surrounding her death explain Magufuli’s enduring legacy.

Tsehai said the circumstances of his death and the “secrecy and intimidation” facing citizens to speculate or discuss it are “very revealing about the kind of presidency he led.”

“Even now, when he dies, people are still terrified and he speaks in silent tones,” Tsehai said.

Magufuli was the fifth president of Tanzania and was part of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party that has ruled the country since independence in 1961.

Now that it is gone, Tanzania is in the midst of transformation. Many believe the country is battling a virulent second wave of Covid. However, the reports are largely anecdotal, as Tanzania failed to report Covid data to global health authorities, such as World Health Organization.

The latest reported figures of 509 cases and 21 deaths occurred in April last year.

Magufuli thwarted world health leaders after suspending national monitoring of Covid cases, blaming the country’s infection toll on faulty test kits.

Last May, he claimed that non-human samples were randomly collected from one leg, a goat and sheep, which used test kits imported from Covid-19, returned positive test results of the virus when they were sent to the country’s lab, the handlers were unaware of the source of the samples.

Magufuli’s death has raised many questions about how the country is progressing in a pandemic with a massive information gap.

Magufuli made no offer for Covid vaccines as he questioned their safety and promoted the use of prayers, herbal treatments and steam inhalation to fight the disease.

Tsehai says the lack of information makes it difficult for health workers and citizens to know what the real situation is. His organization conducted an informal survey to get a “snapshot” of Covid’s situation in the country last year.

“We are seeing more obituaries, announcements of deaths and more people leaving us. There are people who are older and in their fifties. Parents also tell us that children are admitted to the hospital with respiratory problems,” he said.

However, the changes are far from imminent, Tsehai added. “Nothing will happen immediately. We have to wait and see what Samia (Hassan) can do.”

On Friday, Hassan was sworn in as the country’s first president.

Now, the new leader must select a vice presidential candidate and form a cabinet, Tsehai said.

“We are very concerned. He must act now. The ceremony and burial and the last ceremony will be Covid’s super-outreach events,” Tsehai added.

Fighting Covid with prayers

Magufuli was devoutly religious and a rabid denier of Covid-19 who repeatedly downplayed the severity of Covid-19 in Tanzania, while declaring the country virus-free last June after three days of mass prayers.

He refused to close churches, he appealed to the citizens to join more days of mass prayer and described the virus as “satanic”.

“Let us pray and fast for three days, I am sure we will win … today for Muslims who have already begun, tomorrow Seventh-day Adventists who pray on Saturdays and Sundays for Christians,” Magufuli said on February 19th.

“God has never left this nation. We won last year and got middle income status amid the coronavirus,” he added.

Deus Valentine Rweyemamu, who heads the Center for Strategic Litigation, a pro-democracy movement in Tanzania, told CNN that Magufuli did not provide leadership in its management of the pandemic.

Thus, the U.S. embassy, ​​while the government minimizes the virus, claims that covid cases are expanding

“President Magufuli hid behind religious fundamentalism and managed to incite a whole nation to denialism. His only public address registered in Covid is half of it made up of biblical verses,” Rweyemamu said.

However, religious leaders were one of his fiercest critics.

Father Charles Kitima, secretary of the Tanzanian Episcopal Conference, a group of Catholic bishops, told CNN on Thursday that the Magufuli regime did not take urgent action to treat the coronavirus.

Kitima, who had been a vocal critic of Tanzania’s Covid response under Magufuli, said some members of the Tanzanian Catholic Church may have died from Covid-related complications.

“Some church members had respiratory complications and died from it,” he told CNN.

“As for the months of mid-December 2020 to February 2021, we lost 25 priests and 60 nuns … Some of these died due to breathing difficulties,” he said.

He added that the volume of infections in the country could not be determined due to lack of evidence.

Kitima failed in Magufuli’s Covid response, which was largely based on religion, while ignoring scientific recommendations.

“Prayer cannot be separated from science. Religion is there to support doctors and researchers. Science and faith must work together,” Kitima told CNN.

Western countries have hoarded & # 39;  Covid vaccines.  Africa lags behind as cases increase

Rweyemamu told CNN that many Tanzanians relied on Magufuli’s (though unconventional) methods.

“If President Magufuli appeared in public with a mask, even the sickest dog in Tanzania would wear one. This is because … Tanzanians believe in their president more than in their own parents,” he said. add.

Mussa Khamis, a project officer for Good Neighbors, a non-profit humanitarian organization in Tanzania, told CNN: “While some of my friends and family were inhaling steam to fight this pandemic … I took care of myself by watching the prevention measures advised by WHO and other medical experts “.

The young resident of the semi-autonomous islands of Tanzania, Zanzibar, 26, said the existence of Covid-19 had begun to resonate with many Tanzanians after the death of Zanzibar Vice President Seif Sharif Hamad, who die in February after contracting the virus.

Hamad was open about his illness, which he made public three weeks before his death.

“Now people wear masks and wash their hands often. I think this is motivated by the recent loss of our vice president,” Khamis said.

The end of the Magufuli era is expected to introduce a new national perspective on Covid-19.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Tanzania’s new leader will be the most common or whether he will change his attack and leave room for science to thrive as the pandemic sinks.

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