Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has died aged 61, the country’s vice-president has announced.
In a televised address to the nation late on Wednesday, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan said the 61-year-old president had died of a “heart condition” in Dar es Salaam.
Hassan said Magufuli had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on 6 March but was subsequently discharged.
However, he was rushed to the hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.
Magufuli has not been seen in public for more than two weeks, and rumours have been circulating about his health and whereabouts. Vice-President Hassan 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.
She said there would be 14 days of national mourning and flags would fly at half-mast.
Magufuli was declared president on his 56th birthday in October 2015.
He was elected on promises to tackle corruption and boost infrastructure development. He won a second term in a disputed poll last year.
Nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, Magufuli was a vocal COVID-19 sceptic. He had long downplayed the severity of COVID-19, urging Tanzanians to pray or use local remedies to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
In April 2020, the East African country stopped releasing infection numbers, weeks before Magufuli declared the country coronavirus-free in June through divine intervention.
But a week before he was last seen, Magufuli conceded the virus was still circulating, after the vice president of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous archipelago in the Indian Ocean, died of COVID-19.