NAIROBI, Kenya, March 20 – Top government and Chama Cha Mapinduzi officials in Tanzania paid their respects to the country’s departed leader John Pombe Magufuli on Saturday at the onset of a series of planned public viewing events.
The leaders viewed late President Magufuli’s body at the Uhuru Sports Complex in Dar es Salaam.
Earlier on Saturday, a military funeral procession departed the State House in Dar es Salaam for a funeral mass at St Peter’s Catholic Church in Oysterbay.
The mass was attended by Magufuli’s widow Janet, his children and a host of government officials led by President Samia Suluhu.
Tanzanians living in Dar es Salaam will have an opportunity to bid Magufuli farewell tomorrow before his body is airlifted to Dodoma for members of the public there to bid him farewell.
Those in Zanzibar and Mwanza will pay their respects on Tuesday and Wednesday after which late the President’s body will be flown to his hometown Chato where residents will bid him farewell on Thursday.
Magufuli died from a heart condition, his the Vice President Suluhu said in an address on state television Wednesday night, after days of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts.
“It is with deep regret that I inform you that today on the 17th of March, 2021 at 6 pm we lost our brave leader, the President of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli,” Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan announced.
Suluhu was on Friday sworn in as the country’s first female president becoming the only other serving female Head of State in Africa alongside Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde.
Confirmation of Magufuli’s death came after weeks of uncertainty and wild rumours over his absence, as he was last seen in public on February 27.
Opposition leader Tundu Lissu had raised questions about his health, citing sources he said intimated the president was suffering from COVID-19.
Magufuli, who was first elected in 2015 and secured a second term in a disputed poll in 2020, had for months insisted the coronavirus no longer existed in Tanzania, and had been fended off by prayer.