DAR ES SALAAM, 15 March 2021 – Police in Tanzania have arrested four people on suspicion of being at the origin of rumors that President John Magufuli is ill.
The first of the four arrests was made Friday evening, according to news reports which did not provide the names of those arrested.
Social media has been awash with rumor since last week that the Tanzanian leader, who has not been seen in public for two weeks, was hospitalized with breathing difficulties – code in Tanzania for COVID-19.
One of those arrested is reportedly a 61-year-old opposition leader.
He is blamed for claiming on social media that Magufuli’s health condition is serious after the Tanzanian leader contracted COVID-19.
Tanzania Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Monday joined efforts to refute the rumors but what she said after urging Tanzanians to ignore rumors may have contributed to more speculation about Magufuli being sickened.
“It’s quite normal for anybody to be afflicted by illness, to contract flu or a fever… this is the time for Tanzanians to be united through prayer,” she said.
She did not explain who she was talking about.
Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu cited sources last week as telling him that Magufuli was being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya.
After several days of saying nothing to counter the rumors, Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa finally came out last Friday saying Magufuli was “healthy and working hard” in his office.
Majaliwa said spreading such rumors as have been told about his boss “smacks of hate”.
He spoke Friday from the southern Tanzanian town of Njombe.
The Tanzanian prime minister told reporters he had spoken with Magufuli on the phone, raising questions across all media platforms as to why reporters are not being allowed to see the president hard at work at his desk at the state house.