For close to two weeks, the rumour mill was awash with the fake assertions that Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli had succumbed to Covid-19. The rumours seem to have emanated from a news report which said an African head of state had been hospitalised due to the disease.
The report did not mention names, but apparently it was from Magufuli’s missing from the public eye.
The rumours brought the combined but contrary feeling of irony and tragedy. Well, how else can one explain a situation where someone who laughed off the guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) die of the same disease he said doesn’t exist?
So, when the Tanzanian government announced on Wednesday Magufuli had died from a heart condition, the tongues went wagging again. The conspiracy theories that have been flying around are extraordinary.
The circumstances in his death are for others to put on their microscope and investigate the regimens and culture. We cannot stand here trying to link his death to the 27 million euros meant for Covid 19 some members of the European Union wanted Tanzania to repay given the leader’s stance.
This can be a matter for another day. But then, Magufuli appears to be one leader who was revered and reviled by his people in more or less equal measure.
If the elections in October last year are anything to go by, you would feel Tanzanians wanted more of him. He got 84 percent of the vote for Chama Cha Mapinduzi. His opponent, Tundu Lissu only got 13 percent.
It was clear from the poll that whatever it was, Magufuli had sold his people a brand they wanted to remain at the helm since he won the first election in 2015.
He is known to have instituted a fight against corruption. This fight, which turned things round was that corruption should not be entertained as business as usual.
The corruption fight, coupled with high level financial discipline earned him a place as one of Africa’s leadership star players. While some African leaders were globe-trotting, he was busy giving his people infrastructural development.
He surely brought an economic upheaval that lifted Tanzania from the Least Developed Countries bracket to a middle income country earlier than projected.
You could go on to talk about how he resurrected Air Tanzania from a death bed and so much more.
Yet, the side some reviled is his crackdown on the media, opposition politicians and other activists. He was becoming more of a neo-democratic dictator.
As a president, his being in the league of covidiots, he was apparently the African torchbearer in that regard. For some this may pit him as a great pan-African hero. Others, may say this stance put a heavy risk on his people.