A woman and four children died in a stampede on Sunday as thousands of Tanzanians pushed their way into the Uhuru Stadium in the city, Dar es Salaam to view President John Magufuli’s body.
Suzan Mtua, 30, died alongside four children from the same family aged 11, 8, 6 and 5. “We went to the hospital and searched all patients’ wards, but we couldn’t find Suzan and the children. Later, the doctors told us to go and look for them in the mortuary where we found the dead bodies of the five,” Henry Mutwa, a family spokesperson told The Citizen.
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On Monday, several African leaders gathered in the Tanzanian city of Dodoma for Magufuli’s state funeral that saw thousands of people in attendance. “We mourn the loss of our friend, our brother, a hard worker,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said. “He showed us that, as Africans, we have the potential to liberate ourselves from dependence on foreigners. That we have potential as Africans to manage our economies and ensure that our people get justice.”
Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan described Magufuli as not just a leader but “a guardian and parent to many… and an honest man.”
Magufuli died at the age of 61 last Wednesday from heart complications at a hospital in Dar es Salaam. A week before his death, the BBC reported that the no-nonsense leader has not made a public appearance in some time, prompting Tanzanians to ask for the whereabouts of their president. The opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, said the president was on admission in a hospital due to COVID-19.
Last year, Magufuli declared a “victory” of the pandemic over what he said were the prayers of Tanzanians. His administration had declared that the country was coronavirus-free. This came after the government insisted normal public life would have to go on in spite of the suspected increase in cases leading up to the end of last year. Schools remained open as did churches.
“The corona disease has been eliminated thanks to God,” the Covid-19 skeptic leader once stated in a speech, apparently because of prayers. The spiritual inclination was not a joke as the government warned the American Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam to stay out of Tanzania’s internal affairs after the American envoy issued a statement in May 2020 claiming that hospitals in the commercial capital were on the verge of collapse due to admitting coronavirus-infected patients.
Magufuli did not only allege foreign conspiracies to undermine his government but also moved to crush faith in Tanzania’s scientific research community. He once stated that “probably, the technicians are also bought to mislead” on infection and mortality rates in the country.
The head of the national research unit in charge of understanding Tanzania’s case count and kinds of infection was sacked after his outfit was accused of finding coronavirus in goats and pawpaw.
The government then launched an investigation into “criminal possibility at the national laboratory”. While most African countries placed restrictions on public life, Tanzania did not. Apart from full churches and mosques, stadia were also loaded with soccer fans and continue to be.