Home Political Spy The Rumor We All Ignored About Magufuli’s Sickness

The Rumor We All Ignored About Magufuli’s Sickness

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• Media reports over the past 48 hours had suggested that Magufuli was in Kenya for medical treatment. However, no source that had suggested it likely.

• As of 6 March, the VP’s security had reportedly been strengthened through the redeployment of half of President Magufuli’s security detail to the Office of the Vice President.


TANZANIA– According to off-the-record discussions with multiple trusted sources in the government of Tanzania and family members of President Magufuli, the president tested positive for COVID-19 last week (about a couple of days upon his death announcement), went into cardiac arrest on Wednesday 3 March and has been unresponsive on a ventilator for the past eight days (then). The government had issued no statement regarding Magufuli’s condition or whereabouts and there had been reports of internet blackouts on 10 March, as social media and overseas media commentary on the situation gained traction.

“We note that this is a rapidly evolving situation and we will continue to monitor developments and update this briefing note accordingly” a source is quoted to have said.

Continued developments
• From 3-7 March, the president was unconscious and showing signs of heart failure, according to senior government sources and family members of the president. The now deceased had long suffered from heart problems, collapsed on a number of occasions through his first term presidency, and had a pacemaker.

• However, sources claimed that nobody has had access to the president since Sunday night (7 March), adding that those closest to him had received no information regarding his whereabouts since then. This reportedly included his wife and children. The vice president also reportedly did not know the whereabouts of the president. The Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS) had taken control of the situation and information flows.

• On the same day (7 March), President Magufuli was transferred from State House, where he had been on a ventilator for at least four days, to the intelligence services hospital on the orders of Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

• The president’s close family were reportedly brought to the State House on the previous night (6 March). Religious leaders were called for a special prayer session and traditional healers from the president’s Sukuma ethnic group were also brought to Dar es Salaam from his ancestral home.

• Media reports over the past 48 hours had suggested that Magufuli was in Kenya for medical treatment. However, no source that had suggested it likely.

In the words of a former presidential advisor: “We would never take a president to Kenya for medical treatment during a trade war… They would get all the information on the president’s condition and leak all the details or use it against you. They would never take him to Kenya – he doesn’t like Kenyans. The intelligence agents managing this don’t like Kenyans –they don’t even share intelligence”.

• One well-placed senior government official told this source on 11 March that the president was still at the intelligence services hospital in Dar es Salaam. While this information was single-sourced at present, the source considered it credible as other trusted sources had separately confirmed that:


(i) the head of the intelligence services hospital had not returned home since Sunday 7 March;

and (ii) the president’s bodyguards had also not returned home since that week, and their mobile phones had reportedly been confiscated.


• The same senior government official noted that doctors had been flown in from India to treat the president.

Leadership void and transition

• As of 6 March, the VP’s security had reportedly been strengthened through the redeployment of half of President Magufuli’s security detail to the Office of the Vice President.

The VP was also transferred from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam on 6 March under heavy security. This move reflected the early stages of a potential transition of power to the vice president.

• Eight cabinet ministers, three senior officials in State House, and Chief Secretary Ally Bashiru had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in recent days. The Speaker of Parliament was also at the time ill with COVID-19, as was the Director General of TISS. Finance Minister Philip Mpango was filmed having a coughing fit, unmasked, while giving a press conference approximately one week ago, and reportedly also had COVID-19.

• As a result of the debilitation of senior government figures, as well as the absence of President Magufuli, the business of government and related decision-making was reportedly becoming significantly hampered for the coming month.

• Multiple sources within the security services and cabinet that the source spoke to assessed that the most likely scenario was then a transition of power.

In the event that the president made a recovery – (which sadly didnt happen by the news update a couple of hours ago), his frail health and pre-existing heart condition would make it very unlikely that he would be able to resume his presidential responsibilities for an extended period.

• An emergency cabinet meeting was held on 9 March, but this reportedly focused primarily on the 2021/22 budget discussions, and there was no discussion of the president’s health situation, despite the calling of an emergency meeting by the VP.

• According to the constitution, the VP was to convene the ruling CCM party’s Central Committee to discuss her replacement as VP once she assumes the role of president, and to forward the name of her proposed replacement as well as that of the prime minister to parliament for confirmation.

• Assuming a transition of power takes place, the relative weakness (in political terms) of Suluhu Hassan would also contribute to a slowdown in decision-making, as jostling for influence and new power dynamics become the focus of senior CCM figures.

Such a transition of power would take many weeks, particularly if uncertainty over the president’s condition continued.

• Nevertheless, the source considered it credible that a transition at the presidential level could result in a rapid shift regarding the country’s COVID-19 policy.

With the developing information of a presidential transition in the coming weeks, there is at least an impending possibility of a marked shift on COVID-19: for example, a decision to formally allow testing, to engage in vaccine procurement, and/or to introduce COVID containment measures more likely as seen in Kenya or Uganda (such as mask wearing or a ban on mass gatherings).

Such a policy reversal would be significant not just for Tanzania but for the whole region, as it would bring an end to the current situation whereby Tanzania’s denialist stance makes it an outlier with steadily accumulating spill-over effects.

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The current Tz policy stance had been driven by the now late president as an individual, rather than by any broad-based consensus, and hence could be quickly reversed.

• Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who hails from Zanzibar, is not as influential within government as her position would suggest, but source quotes to have  her assume power in the short term, and we are therefore likely to see the East African Community’s first female head of state, albeit under a political dispensation in which power shifts to some extent from State House towards the CCM senior leadership, as well as TISS.

Emerging power dynamics

• On Friday 5 March, the Director General of the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS), Diwani Athuman, reportedly held a briefing meeting with newly appointed Chief Secretary, Dr Bashiru Ally, and proposed a tight transition plan should President Magufuli fail to recover. A source notes that both individuals have since been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to government sources.

• Athuman reportedly recommended that the long serving Attorney General and former Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Andrew Chenge, become the next vice president
(with current VP Samia Suluhu Hassan assuming the presidency).

In the agency’s view, Chenge’s appointment would help stabilise political support for the transition process from members of Magufuli’s Sukuma ethnic group, who have been significantly favored and placed in key positions under the Magufuli presidency. We note that Chenge has a controversial track record in Tanzanian politics, and has been implicated in several of the country’s largest corruption scandals.

• Analysis conducted by TISS in 2020 found that the CCM was losing support among the youth. As a result, the agency is also reportedly proposing that youthful CCM heavyweight and former environment minister, January Makamba, be appointed to the role of prime minister in order to boost the party’s appeal to young Tanzanians.

• TISS subsequently briefed VP Suluhu Hassan on her arrival in Dar es Salaam, reportedly advising her to;

(i) embrace the various factions within CCM in the name of stability, including that of former president Jakaya Kikwete (with whom the VP reportedly does not align);

(ii) re-engage the international investor and diplomatic community with a view to improving relations with both groups;

and (iii) reverse repressive measures enacted to stifle the political opposition.

• It appears that the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS) were controlling the information – and increasingly the situation – relating to the leadership transition. Since DG Athuman was taken ill with COVID-19 early this week, the director of operations had assumed temporary leadership of the agency.

His leadership style is reportedly ruthless, confrontational, and brutal, compared to the more moderate style of Athuman.

• TISS is dominated by members of the Sukuma ethnic group, who have been recruited under the Magufuli administration. Their power and influence over the business of government has grown significantly under Magufuli, and former intelligence officials note that they are now concerned about losing this influence.

• The same sources claimed that TISS – particularly in the temporary absence of Athuman – is seeking to maintain their influence with the support of key Magufuli loyalists, such as Minister of Energy, Medard Kalemani, and PS for Finance, Doto James (who is also Magufuli’s nephew). This group of Magufuli loyalists and their TISS allies are reportedly seeking to secure influence in the transition process through a likely strategy of pressure and intimidation of other factions and key figures in the ruling CCM – including the Vice President.

While the source does not consider it likely that the VP will be forced to step aside, it is credible though, that pressure would be brought to bear to ensure that she leads according to the preferences of this faction, assuming a presidential transition takes place.

This Piece was Sourced.

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