Tanzania: President Magufuli’s Mysterious Absence Raises Concerns About Who is Governing the Country

Tanzanian President John Magufuli outside State House in Dar es Salaam on August 15, 2019, during a state visit by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
16 March 2021
ACT-Wazalendo (Tanzania)
press release

Dar Es Salaam — ACT- Wazalendo calls upon the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to fully explain the mystery surrounding the absence of President John Pombe Magufuli who has uncharacteristically not been seen in public for over two weeks now. This will avert growing concern about who exactly is in charge of running the country.

We also want the government to inform the public who is handling duties of the Office of The President during the absence of the Head of State.

President Magufuli was last seen in public at the swearing-in of Chief Secretary, Dr Bashiru Ally, on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Shortly thereafter, claims of his hospitalisation, allegedly from Covid-19 infection or a reported cardiac arrest, begun to circulate. While the government is yet to officially confirm or dispute such sensitive reports, the President’s absence has raised palpable public anxiety and tension which threatens the welfare of the country.

Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa have separately issued conflicting statements on the health status of the President to further add to the existing public tension and confusion. Last week in Njombe District, Majaliwa told Muslim faithful at a prayer meeting that he had spoken to President Magufuli and asked the public to ignore any insinuations about his wellbeing.

On Monday, Ms Suluhu who was touring Tanga Region suggested the Head of State may be unwell, even if not mentioning his name directly or explaining the nature of his ailment. Both the assertions by the VP and the PM have only helped to intensify speculations about Magufuli’s health status and his whereabouts.

ACT Wazalendo has confirmed beyond doubt that President Magufuli is ill. We are, however, saddened by the government’s handling of the matter of the health of the country’s chief executive. We demand that the relevant authorities immediately tell Tanzanians the real situation of Dr Magufuli’s condition and assure the republic about continuity of the roles of his office as stipulated in the Constitution.

Section 37 (2) of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, gives mandate to the Cabinet to submit a resolution to the Chief Justice to form a medical inquiry to certify that the President is unable to discharge the functions of his office by reason of physical or mental infirmity. Such a medical certificate would be submitted to the Speaker of Parliament upon which the House declares the office vacant in 7 days if the President does not recover.

And Section 37 (3) requires the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania to assume the duties of the President when the President is absent or unable to carry out his duties.

Due to the prevailing circumstances, ACT-Wazalendo therefore urges the following;

i. The police should unconditionally release all citizens who have been arrested lately on accusations of circulating rumours about the President’s health.
ii. The government should inform the public about the actual status of the President’s health and whether he is still able to carry out his duties.
iii. Under the circumstances that the President’s condition does not allow him to continue serving as President, the Chief Justice should kick-off the constitutional process to secure the mandate of the Office of the President.
iv. The Chief Secretary must officially declare that the Vice-President is Acting President as per the government’s protocols.
v. Heads of Parastatals, especially the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), should assure the public that no one is taking advantage of the situation to loot State coffers.
vi. We call upon members of the Civil Society such as the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) to speak out on the importance of safeguarding the Constitutional order to safeguard Tanzania’s governance.

Kabwe Z. Ruyagwa Zitto Party Leader, ACT Wazalendo

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