Obituary: John Pombe Magufuli and His Rise to Prominence

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has Wednesday been declared dead after over two weeks of not appearing publically.

According to Tanzanian Vice President Ms. Hassan Suluhu, Magufuli, 61, was suffering from heart complications although opposition politicians had said that he had contracted Covid19.

Magufuli’s Political Career

Born on October 29th 1959, John Pombe Magufuli was the fifth President of Tanzania having served from 2015 until his death in 2021.

Prior to that, he served as Minister of Works, Transport and Communications from 2000 to 2005 and 2010 to 2015 and was chairman of the Southern African Development Community from 2019 to 2020.

First elected as a Member of Parliament in 1995, he served in the Cabinet of Tanzania as Deputy Minister of Works from 1995 to 2000, Minister of Works from 2000 to 2006, Minister of Lands and Human Settlement from 2006 to 2008, Minister of Livestock and Fisheries from 2008 to 2010, and as Minister of Works for a second time from 2010 to 2015.

He would later run as the candidate of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the country’s dominant party, won the October 2015 presidential election and was sworn in on 5 November 2015.

Magufuli ran on a platform of reducing government corruption and spending while also investing in Tanzania’s industries, but has been accused of having increasing autocratic tendencies brought on by restrictions on freedom of speech and a crackdown on members of the political opposition.

After expiry of his five-year term, he nominated unopposed as the Chama Cha Mapinduzi flag bearer and was elected for a second term following a disputed poll last year.


Magufuli started his education at The Chato Primary School from 1967 to 1974 and went on to The Katoke Seminary in Biharamulo for his secondary education from 1975 to 1977 before relocating to Lake Secondary School in 1977 and graduating in 1978.

He joined Mkwawa High School for his Advanced level studies in 1979 and graduated in 1981. That same year he joined Mkwawa College of Education for a Diploma in Education Science, majoring in Chemistry, Mathematics and Education.

Magufuli earned his bachelor of science in education degree majoring in chemistry and mathematics as teaching subjects from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1988. He also earned his masters and doctorate degrees in chemistry from The University of Dar es Salaam, in 1994 and 2009, respectively.

In late 2019, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Dodoma for improving the economy of the country.

Denying existence of Covid19

He was one of Africa’s most prominent coronavirus sceptics, and called for prayers and herbal-infused steam therapy to counter the virus.

Tanzania has not published details of its coronavirus cases since May, and the government has refused to purchase vaccines.

More reports said that the Tanzanian government was arresting individuals spotted wearing protective face masks in public.

Mr Magufuli was last seen in public on 27 February, but Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa insisted last week that the president was “healthy and working hard”.

He blamed the rumours of the president’s ill-health on “hateful” Tanzanians living abroad.

But opposition leader Tundu Lissu said that his sources had told him Mr Magufuli was being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya.

Erick Katende