Tuesday March 30, 2021
Volunteers assist a civilian as she mourns late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli at Uhuru stadium in Dar es Salaam, March 20, 2021. © Emmanuel Herman, Reuters (illustration)
Tanzanian police announced Tuesday that 45 people had died during a stampede in Dar es Salaam on March 21 as mourners paid their last respects to the late president John Magufuli.
The crush took place when thousands of grieving citizens tried to push their way into a stadium in the city to bid farewell to Magufuli, whose sudden death after a mysterious absence was announced on March 17.
"There were a lot of people who wanted to get in the stadium, and some were not patient. They tried to force their way in and that resulted in a stampede. Forty-five died in the accident," Dar es Salaam regional police commander Lazaro Mambosasa told AFP.
Five of the deceased were from the same family, Mambosasa said. A woman and four children were earlier reported crushed in the accident at Uhuru Stadium, though the true toll of the stampede was not announced at the time.
Mambosasa said several dozen were also injured in the crush but most had been released from hospital.
Magufuli's body was transported to Tanzania's major cities of Dar es Salaam, Dodoma, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Geita, before being finally laid to rest in his ancestral village of Chato, in the country's northwest, on March 26.
Tens of thousands came out to pay their respects, lining roads, weeping and running alongside the casket as a military motorcade moved through the cities.
The stampede took place on the second day of tributes at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, when the public was allowed in to pay their respects.
No official data on Covid-19
Magufuli died aged 61 from what authorities say was a heart condition, after a mysterious absence of almost three weeks, and questions remain over the true cause of his death which the opposition says was from Covid-19.
While Magufuli was hailed for his fight against corruption and massive infrastructure projects, he was criticised for the stifling of democracy and crackdowns on the media, civil society and the opposition.
His legacy is also marred by his Covid denialism, which saw Tanzania refuse to issue data or take any measures to curb the spread of the virus.
The devout Christian claimed faith had saved the country from Covid-19, championing prayers over face masks and stopping virus figures from being published.
However, by February, cases were soaring to such an extent that the church, schools and other public institutions openly issued warnings about the spread of the virus.
'Coughing' minister confirmed as vice president
His deputy Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as the country's first female president, and led the ceremonies bidding him farewell.
Hassan has vowed to "start where Magufuli ended" and all eyes are on potential changes to the country's policies and openness regarding Covid-19.
On Tuesday, Tanzania's parliament confirmed the appointment of Finance Minister Philip Isdor Mpango as the country’s vice-president.
Mpango is an economist who has held various senior positions including as a senior economists at World Bank. He appeared in a video last month coughing and gasping at a press conference outside a hospital to dispel rumours he had died of Covid-19.