Source: Mail & Guardian

This story explains the tragedy that John Magufuli inflicted on Tanzania.

But he is not the only African leader who has inflicted terrible suffering on his people because of his denials.

When he was President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki did the same with Aids. He insisted that the virus was a western myth.

Instead, Mbeki looked to fake “alternative therapies”. His tragic mistake cost more than 300,000 South Africans their lives.

Tanzania – the country where Covid doesn’t exist
But doctors tell another story
Officially, Tanzania is the only country in the world that has no active cases of
Covid-19 and has not recorded a single new case of the virus since May 2020. As if frozen in amber, the country’s caseload remains at 509 cases and 21 deaths (in a population of 58-million), as it was on 9 May last year. 

When the scale of the pandemic became apparent, most leaders on the continent turned to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation for help. But Tanzanian President John Magufuli called on an even higher authority: God. He claimed the virus was eliminated after three days of national prayer in June 2020, and subsequently ordered authorities to stop sharing any data about the pandemic. The virus “cannot survive in the body of Christ,” he said.

“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 Samia Suluhu Hassan said in a televised announcement on Wednesday.

Thus the world became aware of Magufuli’s death. 

There would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half mast, Hassan added. According to her, Magufuli died on Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

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

According to Tanzania’s constitution, Hassan will be sworn in as the new president and will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s five-year team, which he began in October last year after a contentious election.

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

But the cloak and daggers weren’t always associated with Magufuli. There was potential there. “What would Magufuli do?” became a catchphrase to compare him with underperforming leaders in the region. However, after less than a year in office his descent into authoritarianism began at full tilt.

When he first took the highest office in Tanzania in 2015, he was widely lauded for his zero tolerance approach to fighting corruption and imprudent government spending. Throughout his 20-year stint as a cabinet minister, Magufuli was known to be a hard worker and, more importantly, he kept a corruption-free record, a rare feat given the portfolios he was responsible for. Infrastructure projects, which often require huge investments spread over time, are generally associated with graft and mismanagement. 

Magufuli’s clean record, and his reputation for getting things done, became useful during the 2015 general election campaign. He promised to fight corruption, discipline the civil service, and create employment for the youth. He was celebrated for expanding free education, rural electrification and investing in infrastructure projects such as railways, a hydropower dam set to double electricity output, and the revival of the national airline.

His government passed a raft of laws to increase Tanzania’s stake in its mineral resources and demanded millions in back taxes from foreign mining companies.
But his “Bulldozer” moniker wasn’t in relation to Magufuli’s previous portfolio, but rather his propensity for trampling on human rights and demolishing democratic gains in one of the continent’s most stable countries.

The disease whose existence he so vehemently denied has outlasted him and his legacy now becomes a cautionary tale. Rest in peace to all the Tanzanians who died on his watch.