DODOMA, 9 March 2021 – Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has reportedly been hospitalized, with breathing difficulties, persistent news reports said Tuesday.
The phrase “breathing difficulties” has become code for “battling COVID-19” in Tanzania where officials, beginning with Magufuli, say the virus has been prayed out of the country.
There is no official information on the whereabouts of Magufuli and there is no official confirmation that he is sick or down with COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Tanzania’s opposition leader, Tundu ALissu, called on the government spokesperson to share the whereabouts of the president and his health status with fellow Tanzanians.
“The President’s well-being is a matter of grave public concern. We’re informed when Kikwete had prostate surgery. We’re told when Mkapa went for hip replacement. We’re not kept in the dark when Mwalimu fought leukaemia. What’s it with Magufuli that we don’t deserve to know?” wrote Tundu on Twitter.
Against well-established routine, Sunday was the second consecutive Sunday during which Magufuli, a regular church goer, did not attend service.
Reporters noted his failure last week to attend the Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community Heads of State which was held virtually.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta assumed the rotating presidency of the East African Community during the summit while Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye became the community’s rapporteur.
Magufuli declared Tanzania “COVID-19-free” in June 2020.
“If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids, cancer and TB by now,” Magufuli said in one of those moments when he positions himself as a fighter against Western imperialism.
“Vaccines work and I encourage the [Tanzanian] government to prepare for a Covid vaccination campaign,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Africa Director at the World Health Organizaton.
The WHO has pledged to help Tanzania deploy vaccines if the east African nation is willing to accept the assistance and asks for it.
It took until last February for Magufuli to finally acknowledged for the first time that Tanzania has a coronavirus problem.
It took the deaths of some high-profile officials from the virus, including the first vice-president of the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar, the president’s own chief secretary and a former governor of the Bank of Tanzania for Magufuli to invite the country’s 60 million inhabitants to follow COVID-19 guidelines and adhere to restrictions.