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Tanzania’s ‘Bulldozer’ president and Covid-19 sceptic dies at 61

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, admired by followers for his hostility to corruption and waste however regarded by foes as an irascible authoritarian illiberal of dissent and sceptical about COVID-19, has died aged 61.

He was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his fondness for enormous public works and a fame for pushing by way of insurance policies regardless of opposition – a hard-charging management type that gained help from many Tanzanians.

However he additionally attracted criticism at dwelling and overseas for what opponents noticed as his eccentric dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan mentioned on Wednesday he had died of coronary heart sickness, days after officers denied he had fallen sick amid rumours that he had contracted COVID-19.

Mangufuli decried lockdowns, was sceptical of COVID-19 medicine and instructed vaccines could also be a part of a international plot to steal Africa’s wealth.

“Vaccines aren’t good. In the event that they had been, then the white man would have introduced vaccines for HIV/AIDS,” he mentioned. “Tanzanians needs to be cautious with these imported issues. You shouldn’t assume that they love you a large number. This nation is wealthy, Africa is wealthy, everybody desires a few of it.”

President John Magufuli of Tanzania, a distinguished COVID-19 skeptic whose populist rule typically solid his nation in a harsh worldwide highlight, has died aged 61 of coronary heart failure, it was introduced Wednesday, March 17, 2021 by Vice President Samia Suluhu. (AP)

The federal government stopped reporting statistics for brand new instances and deaths in Might final yr when it had registered 509 instances and 21 deaths. Magufuli had questioned coronavirus testing kits – which he mentioned had returned constructive outcomes on a goat and pawpaw fruit. He declared the pandemic over and reopened the financial system.

However the dying in February of a senior politician from the semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar raised issues a couple of hidden pandemic operating amok within the East African nation.

Magufuli’s strategy brought on alarm on the World Well being Group, prompting its head to implore Tanzania to enhance public well being measures, put together to distribute vaccines and begin reporting coronavirus instances and sharing information.


Born within the village of Chato within the Geita area of northwestern Tanzania, Magufuli was first elected to parliament in 1995 from his dwelling constituency.

A former chemistry trainer, he shortly climbed the political ladder and served in numerous cupboard roles, together with as minister of works, earlier than he gained the presidency in 2015.

Throughout his first presidential marketing campaign he captured headlines by doing push-ups at a rally to show his bodily health for workplace. His cost-cutting together with cancelling independence day festivities and proscribing international journey by officers.

He was re-elected for a second time period in 2020, successful 84% of the vote in a poll the opposition mentioned was marred by irregularities and whose outcomes it rejected.

Upon re-election, he promised to construct on his agenda of preventing corruption and lowering wasteful public spending, strikes which gained him reward in his first time period.

Magufuli, in no-nonsense type, would make unannounced inspection visits to authorities departments, and as soon as sacked senior managers at Tanzania’s foremost public hospital, saying they weren’t delivering. He additionally purged hundreds of “ghost staff” from the federal government, and decreased his personal wage as a part of spending cuts.

He was robust on companies when he thought they had been under-paying taxes. In 2017, his authorities accused gold producer Acacia Mining of evading taxes and under-declaring exports, hitting it with a $190 billion tax invoice. right here

Barrick Gold Corp, which owned nearly all of Acacia and ultimately purchased it out, agreed to pay Tanzania $300 million to settle tax and different disputes.

Critics mentioned Magufuli had presided over a deterioration of the political scene, after his administration arrested opposition leaders, suspended some newspapers and restricted political rallies. The federal government denies suppressing dissent.

Amongst these critics is opposition chief Tundu Lissu, shot 16 occasions by unknown gunmen within the administrative capital Dodoma in September 2017.

He accused the state of attempting to kill him, which the federal government denied. Magufuli condemned the taking pictures and ordered safety forces to research, however nobody has been arrested. right here

On the financial entrance, he launched into bold infrastructure tasks within the hope of supercharging East Africa’s third largest financial system.

These included a railway, a hydropower challenge and the revival of state provider Air Tanzania, spending billions of {dollars} within the course of.

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