Shock and disbelief in Tanzania

Analysis by Athuman Mtulya, BBC News, Dar es Salaam

The country is in a sombre mood – for the first time in its six decades of existence, Tanzania has lost a sitting president, John Pombe Magufuli.

The news of his death was received with shock and disbelief – although there were rumours of his illness, the authorities reassured the country that all was well with him.

From his home district of Chato to the capital of Dodoma to the business hub of Dar es Salaam, most Tanzanians have been mourning Magufuli.

There are those with a different view, especially on social media led by exiled opposition politician Tundu Lissu, who has been speculating that President Magufuli had contracted Covid which led to his death, however the authorities have insisted the death was caused by heart complications.

Tanzanians are now turning their minds to the succession, which should see current Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan become the country’s first female president.

Mr Magufuli was declared president on his 56th birthday in October 2015. He was elected for a second term following a disputed poll last year.

He was hailed for his anti-corruption stance during his time in office, but he was also accused of cracking down on dissent and curtailing certain freedoms.

His critics agree that Mr Magufuli contributed to Tanzania’s development. He invested in large infrastructure projects such as a standard-gauge railway to connect the country with its neighbours, major highways, and a bus system in the commercial hub of Dar es Salaam.

He also increased electricity production, reducing the need for power rationing.

But it is his approach to Covid-19 that many analysts say will define his legacy.

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