Tanzanian President, John Magufuli, has died of heart complications, the vice president of the country, Samia Suluhu announced it on a live TV Wednesday.
Magufuli, who had not been seen in public for more than two weeks, was 61.
There were speculations that he was infected with COVID-19, a disease he downplayed its severity, but vice-president Suluhu brushed this aside.
Suluhu said in a statement she issued live on local TBC that Magufuli died of heart complications on Wednesday at about 6 p.m. in a hospital in Dar es Salaam.
Magufuli, without proof, repeatedly made fun of his country’s COVID-19 testing, after which the East African country stopped sharing updates on the number of people infected and killed by the virus.
While neighbouring Kenya and Uganda imposed lockdowns and curfew, Magufuli maintained business as usual in his country.
“We Tanzanians have not locked ourselves down, and I don’t expect to announce even a single day that we are implementing a lockdown because our God is still alive, and he will continue protecting us Tanzanians,” DW quoted the late president once telling a crowd.
“But we shall also continue taking precautions, including steaming. You steam, at the same time pray to God, and go on with your daily activities so that you eat well and your body builds immunity against the coronavirus.”
But he began to acknowledge the severity of the virus after Zanzibar’s first vice-president, Sharif Hamad, died from the virus in February.
Born on October 29, 1959, Magufuli earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1994 and 2009, respectively.
He taught briefly at Sengerema Secondary School after which he worked as an industrial chemist before he went into politics under the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party.
In 1995, he was elected a member of parliament, then appointed deputy minister of works the same year before becoming a minister in 2000.
His re-appointment as works and transportation minister for the second time earned him so much popularity and paved the way for him to hold the number one job in Tanzania.
He earned the moniker “the bulldozer” because of his bullish leadership style and anti-corruption fight in the road construction industry. His critics accused him of being autocratic.
In 2015, he ran for president and won 58 per cent of the vote, defeating Edward Lowassa of the Chadema opposition party.
Last year, he was re-elected — a result that was rejected by opposition presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu.