AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
LOVED at home, criticised by the west and hailed by leaders some Africans states. That is the legacy of the late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli who died six days ago from heart failure.
There has been an overwhelming outpouring of public grief by thousands of emotional Tanzanians, who have lined the streets and filled stadiums where they went to view and pay their last respects to a president who was popularly known as “The Bulldozer”.
Magufuli has been labelled a COVID-19 denialist after he rejected measures such as lockdowns and instead called for prayers to deal with a virus that has claimed over 2.5-million lives across the world.
Yesterday, heads of states of southern African countries took turns to pay warm tributes to Magufuli at a special memorial service held in the national capital Dodoma today, ahead of Friday’s burial.
Thousands filled the Jamhuri Stadium in Dodoma, where Magufuli’s body lies in state. Men, women and children wept openly in a show of love and respect for Magufuli, whose body was taken through the streets of Dodoma, before being taken to the stadium for an official memorial service.
At least 10 heads of state have arrived in Dodoma for the official memorial service. Those who paid their respects to Magufuli include his close friend and President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, Yoweri Museveni the President of Uganda, Mokgwetsi Masisi, the President of Botswana, Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi, Felix Tshesekedi, President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The heads of states used the occasion to also recognise the key role that Tanzania has played in the liberation of all southern African countries.
Kenyatta eulogised the fallen former Tanzanian Head of State as a hardworking and transformative leader whose rich legacy of success within a very short time earned him recognition and respect the world over.
“We mourn the loss of our friend, our brother, a hardworker, the Honorable John Pombe Magufuli. The President who was respected not only here in Tanzania but also in the entire East Africa, the whole of Africa and the entire world.
Tribute to His Excellency President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli https://t.co/5AAmDct4zM— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) March 22, 2021
“He showed us that, as Africans we have the potential to liberate ourselves from dependence on foreigners. That we have potential as Africans to manage our economies and ensure that our people get justice,” he said.
The President, who is also the current Chairperson of the East African Community, said the late Magufuli was a close ally with whom he spoke regularly, exchanging ideas on the relationship between Kenya and Tanzania, and the progress of the regional bloc.
In his tribute, Ramaphosa praised Magufuli for standing firm against corruption and for believing that leaders must work for their people and not for themselves. He said the Tanzanian president also focussed, correctly so, on the economic development of Tanzania and the southern African region.
“In President Magufuli, we have lost a true Pan Africanist, a president who was unapologetic for being an African,” Ramaphosa said.
Hundreds descended on the Jamuhuri Stadium in Dodoma to pay their respects to Magufuli who, according to the government, died from a heart condition. Before arriving in Dodoma, the late president’s body lay in state at the Uhuru Stadium in Dar Es Salaam after being taken through the streets of Tanzania’s biggest city.
Tanzanians have begun a 21 day period to pay their final respects to their late president.
Magufuli has been replaced by Samia Salou Hassan who was sworn in on Friday. His body was flown to Zanzibar today, where President Hussein Mwinyi has led locals got a chance to pay their last respects. After being taken through the streets of Zanzibar, Magufuli’s body was taken to the Abeid Amani Karume Stadium for a memorial service.
Tomorrow, the body will be taken to Mwanza before it’s last destination, Chato, where the late president will be buried on Friday.