Leaders from across Africa have paid tribute to John Magufuli, Tanzania’s late president who leaves a complex legacy following his sudden death last week.
Magufuli died aged 61 from what authorities on Wednesday said was a heart condition, after a mysterious absence of almost three weeks, and questions remain over the true cause of his death which the opposition has said was from COVID-19.
Thousands of mourners on Monday lined the streets of the capital Dodoma, running alongside the motorcade carrying Magufuli’s coffin to the Jamhuri Stadium for the state funeral. Some wept and others even collapsed, carried away by Red Cross officials, as the motorcade arrived, on the third day that Magufuli’s body has been lying in state.
Only visiting presidents and their delegations, and very few Tanzanians, wore masks at the funeral of one of the world’s foremost coronavirus-sceptics, who insisted for months that prayer had fended off the virus.
The presidents of South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Comoros and Malawi, as well as other top representatives from across the continent, attended the service.
Magufuli is hailed for his fight against corruption and massive infrastructure projects, but criticised for the stifling of democracy and crackdowns on the media, civil society and the opposition.
His legacy is also marred by his COVID-19 denialism, which saw Tanzania refuse to issue data or take any measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan told the mourners that “the country is in safe hands. We will start where Magufuli ended.”
Magufuli’s coffin is being transported to six cities to allow people to pay their last respects.
Several people were injured in a stampede on Sunday in a Dar-es-Salaam stadium, while thousands later invaded an airport in the city as his coffin was being flown to Dodoma.
His body will be taken to the archipelago of Zanzibar on Tuesday, and he will be buried in his home village of Chato in the northwest of the country on Friday.