Tanzania: Magufuli Reveals Why He Fired an Official Over Zika Virus

Mbozi — President John Magufuli on Friday October 4 revealed that he fired his government executive (without mentioning the name) because of announcing that there were Tanzanians found to harbor Zika Virus, something, he said, would have scared away tourists and potential investors.

President Magufuli's revelation comes three years since he removed from office the then Director General of the National Institute for Medical Research (Nimr) Dr Mwele Malecela. She had made public research findings indicating that the Zika virus exists in Tanzania.

But while addressing a rally in Songwe Region on Friday October 4, the Head of State called on Tanzanians to exercise caution on what he termed as misleading reports on the outbreak of epidemics in the country. The president said the reports were meant to tarnish the image of Tanzania and scare away tourists and investors.

"There was a time an executive announced that in this country there is Zika. When I heard that, I had to fire the person who made the announcement. I didn't want to delay. I fired that person at around 1 a.m. (in the night)...shortly thereafter they gave her job there as a boss. They had sent her to announce we have the disease so that tourists would not come to our country... it's a trick used by imperialists," he said while addressing residents of Vwawa in at a public rally in Mbozi District.

President Magufuli believes that at moment when Tanzanian is working towards achieving a middle income status, imperialists (commonly referred locally as mabeberu) may use various means--including disease outbreaks--to undermine the country's efforts.

His remarks came just a day after the Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu came out to try to contain information that had gone viral on international platforms indicating there are suspected cases of Ebola in Tanzania.

The Minister for the second time in public said "There is no confirmed case of Ebola in the country. There were suspected cases, we took their samples and they tested negative for the virus."

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a rare statement over two weeks ago, saying it had received unofficial reports about a patient with Ebola-like symptoms who had been to Uganda, tested positive and died on September 8.

The WHO raised concerns that the details and samples of the reported death had neither been shared by the Tanzanian government nor retested at a reference lab as per International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

But the minister said, "We are not hiding any information on Ebola. We are surprised that the WHO issued the statement. We have followed all international protocols which state that if samples test negative, we are not obliged to share them at the reference lab," she said, adding: "Even when the samples test positive, they must be 25[in number] to qualify for sharing at the reference laboratory."

She insisted that the reports on suspected Ebola cases were being widely circulated by the media to tarnish Tanzania's image. The Health Minister's stance is similar to the one shown by President Magufuli.

The president said, during the rally in Songwe on Friday October 4, "When you are working on big projects using local resources; such as Stiegler's Gorge Hydropower project, Standard Gauge Railway, buying planes in cash and financing education for free, the imperialists cannot be pleased. They will find every possible way of blocking you."

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