The cause and the actual date of death of the late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli are bitterly contested. Announcing his death on the evening of Wednesday, 17 March 2021, then Tanzanian Vice President and now President Samia Suluhu Hassan told the nation and the world that Magufuli had died earlier that evening of complications brought on by a long-standing heart condition.
Soon enough, an undated and untitled newspaper clip, but most likely from the government-owned newspaper, The Daily News, started circulating on social media showing that a much younger-looking “John Pombe”, a postgraduate student at the University of Dar es Salaam, “has been suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” and was “required to undergo surgery in Britain”.
Although the newspaper clip is undated, this must have been between 1992 and 1994, while Magufuli was studying at the University of Dar es Salaam for his Master of Science degree programme. It lent credence to the new President Suluh Hassan’s claim that he died of chronic atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm).
However, many — myself the foremost — believe the president, an unreconstructed Covid-19 denier, died much earlier and the underlying cause of his death was Covid-19 complications. Previously, then vice president Suluh Hassan, without naming any names, and without being prompted, declared that it was not unusual for people to be checked for flu or fevers or any other illness.
Covid testing, publication and data-sharing with WHO (the World Health Organisation) was discontinued by 19 April 2020. And any dissemination of Covid-related information was criminalised under Tanzania’s draconian cybercrime laws.
And then the second wave of the coronavirus struck and the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.
Extracted, mostly verbatim with a few minor edits to ensure serialisation flow, from “Tundu Lissu’s Obituary on John Pombe Magufuli,” published by the Daily Maverick and shared on social media – Facebook. Tundu Antiphas Mughwai Lissu is a lawyer, politician and Member of Parliament. He contested against Magufuli in the 2020 Tanzanian Presidential Elections. We are sharing Lissu’s opinion within the wider context of the debate of Magufuli’s Legacy and his leadership style that trended #whatwouldmagufulido