Tanzanians Pay Their Respects To Late President Magufuli

Women cry as attendees mourn the death of the coffin of fifth Tanzanian president John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam on March 20, 2021. STR / AFP

 

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan on Saturday led mourners in paying their last respects to her predecessor John Magufuli, who died suddenly this week after an illness shrouded in mystery.

Mourners lined the streets of Dar es Salaam to bid farewell to the late president, weeping and throwing flower petals as the casket was transferred by motorcade from a church to Uhuru Stadium where it lies in state.

Hassan, who was sworn in Friday to become the country’s first female president, led a government procession filing past the coffin, which was draped in the Tanzanian flag and offered her condolences to Magufuli’s wife.

Personnel of The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) puts the national flag over the coffin of fifth Tanzanian president John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam on March 20, 2021. STR / AFP

 

Many wore black, or the green and yellow colours of the ruling party, but few inside the stadium or among the packed crowds outside wore face masks in the Covid-sceptic country.

“It is too soon for you to go, father. You touched our lives and we still needed you,” said one mourner, Beatrice Edward.

Personnel of The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) carry the coffin of fifth Tanzanian president John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 20, 2021. STR / AFP

 

“We lost our defender,” said another, Suleiman Mbonde, a tradesman.

READ ALSO: Tanzania Swears In Samia Suluhu As First Female President

The government announced Wednesday that Magufuli, 61, had died from a heart condition at a hospital in Dar es Salaam after three weeks missing from public view.

His unexplained absence fuelled speculation that the famously Covid-sceptic leader was being treated for coronavirus abroad.

The main opposition leader, Tundu Lissu, insists his sources said Magufuli died a week earlier from the disease he long downplayed.

Magufuli had declared that prayer had rid the country of Covid-19, refused face masks or lockdown measures, stopped the publication of case statistics and championed alternative medicine, decrying vaccines as “dangerous”.

But by February, as cases soared, the president popularly known as the “Bulldozer” conceded the virus was still circulating.

While Hassan says she will take over where Magufuli left off, hopes are high she will usher in a change in leadership style from her predecessor and all eyes will be on her handling of the pandemic.

A softly spoken veteran politician, Hassan will convene a special meeting of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party Saturday, where the appointment of a new deputy is expected to be discussed.

Under the constitution, the 61-year-old will serve the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which does not expire until 2025.

She has announced a 21-day mourning period. The late president will lie in state in several locations across Tanzania before his burial next Friday in his home town of Chato.

AFP

Tanzania Mourns President Magufuli’s Demise After Mystery Illness

A man reads a newspaper with a headline announcing the death of Tanzania's President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam, on March 18, 2021. AFP
A man reads a newspaper with a headline announcing the death of Tanzania’s President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam, on March 18, 2021. AFP

 

Tanzania was plunged into mourning Thursday over the death of President John Magufuli following weeks of uncertainty over his health, with his swing to authoritarianism leaving a divided legacy. 

Flags flew at half-mast as the country began a 14-day mourning period after Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan — who is set to become the country’s first female leader — announced Magufuli’s death shortly before midnight.

Hassan said Magufuli had died on Wednesday of a “heart condition” relating to an abnormal heartbeat that he had long suffered from, in a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

The announcement came after government denials the president was ill as pressure mounted to explain his almost three-week absence from public view, which sparked panic and rumours he was seeking treatment abroad for Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Tanzanian President John Magufuli Dies Of ‘Heart Condition’

Several people were arrested this week for spreading rumours over his ill-health on social media.

As condolences poured in from abroad, main opposition leader Tundu Lissu, shot 16 times in a 2017 assassination attempt and exiled in Belgium, described Magufuli’s death as “poetic justice”, insisting his sources said he had succumbed to Covid-19.

“Magufuli died of corona. That is one. Number two, Magufuli did not die this evening. I have information from basically the same sources which told me he was gravely ill, I have information that Magufuli has been dead since Wednesday of last week,” he told Kenya’s KTN News, using local slang for the virus.

“What should I say? It is poetic justice. President Magufuli defied the world on the struggle against corona… He defied science… And what has happened, happened. He went down with corona.”

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, current head of the East African Community bloc, said Africa had lost an “illustrious” leader and ordered a seven-day period of mourning in Kenya and for flags to fly at half-mast in the region.

Ethiopia, Britain and the United States also sent condolences, with Washington saying “we hope that Tanzania can move forward on a democratic and prosperous path.”

‘I am shocked’

Magufuli was first elected in 2015 as a corruption-busting man of the people, endearing him to a population weary of graft scandals, who loved his no-nonsense attitude.

His expansion of free education, rural electrification and infrastructure investments also won him support, as did his efforts to increase Tanzania’s stake in mineral resources, demanding millions in back taxes from foreign mining companies.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 25, 2019 Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli gestures while arriving at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa, for the inauguration of Incumbent South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

 

“The poor had started making progress, business was flourishing, if you had a problem, the president would hear you out,” said 71-year-old newspaper vendor Kondo Nyumba, crying, as he sold the day’s papers, one of which had ‘Sorrow’ headlining the front page.

Another city resident Omar Jongo, 42, was still in shock.

“As any other Tanzanian, I am shocked, and we still haven’t come to terms with the news,” he told AFP.

“For the short time he served, he has done major visible reforms, as a nation we will remember him for the many good things he has done.

However, Magufuli’s slide into authoritarianism, which saw a crackdown on the media, civil society and opposition, raised alarm among foreign allies and rights groups.

His re-election last October was dismissed by the opposition and some diplomats as a sham, over alleged rigging, the blocking of foreign media and observer teams and an oppressive military presence.

“He will be remembered far more for what he destroyed (civic space, media freedom, democratic institutions, good governance) than for anything he started building (roads, modern railway, bridges, power plants, new planes and more),” said Dr Thabit Jacob, a researcher at the Roskilde University in Denmark and expert on Tanzania, in a text message.

“Some will argue he had good intentions and had the country at heart, but he leaves us with a complicated legacy to discuss for many years.”

‘There is no Covid-19’

Magufuli was one of a handful of world leaders, alongside former US president Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who scoffed at the virus, championing alternative medicines.

He called for prayer instead of face masks, before stopping the publication of statistics in April 2020 when the country had recorded a total of 509 cases and 16 deaths.

Tanzania became an outlier in a region which quickly implemented lockdowns, night-time curfews and travel restrictions to stem infections.

In May last year he revealed he had submitted a variety of fruit and animals to be tested for the virus and that a papaya, quail and goat tested positive, proving “sabotage” at the national laboratory.

Magufuli later claimed prayer had saved the country from Covid-19.

“That’s why we are all not wearing face masks here. You think we don’t fear dying? It’s because there is no Covid-19,” he said.

However by February, as illness soared and the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died from Covid-19, Magufuli conceded the virus did in fact exist.

Nevertheless he warned his health ministry not to rush into procuring vaccines, saying they were “dangerous”.

Under Tanzania’s constitution, Hassan will become the country’s first female president and will consult the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party over the appointing of a new vice president.

Jacob said she would be a “president with a much weaker base, who will be controlled by the Magufuli faction and the intelligence. She will struggle to build her own base and factional contestations will emerge.”

 

AFP

Tanzanian President John Magufuli Dies Of ‘Heart Condition’

(FILES) Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died from a heart condition, his vice president said in an address on state television on March 17, 2021,, after days of uncertainty over his health and whereabouts. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli died Wednesday aged 61 from a heart condition, his vice president said, after more than five years of divisive, authoritarian rule capped by his refusal to take COVID-19 seriously. 

Magufuli, popularly nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, had been missing from public view for almost three weeks, fuelling wild rumours of his ill health, with opposition leaders claiming he had contracted the virus.

“It is with deep regret that I inform you that today on the 17th of March, 2021 at 6:00 pm we lost our brave leader, the President of the Republic of Tanzania, John Pombe Magufuli,” said vice-president Samia Suluhu Hassan.

She said Magufuli had died of a “heart condition”, which he has suffered from for a decade, at a hospital in Dar es Salaam.

He had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6, but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said.

But Magufuli had again felt unwell and was on March 14 rushed to hospital, this time to the Emilio Mzena Memorial Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

“Our country shall be in a mourning period of 14 days and the flags shall fly at half-mast,” said Hassan, adding that funeral arrangements were under way.

Magufuli last appeared in public on February 27, and the fervent Catholic had missed three Sunday services, where he would often address the congregation, sparking concern.

Opposition leader Tundu Lissu cited sources saying that he had caught the virus, as demands grew for information on his whereabouts and rumours took off that Magufuli was seeking treatment outside the country.

– Anti-corruption crusader –
Magufuli was first elected in 2015 as a corruption-busting man of the people, endearing him to a population weary of graft scandals.

However a slide into authoritarianism, which saw a crackdown on the media, civil society and opposition, raised alarm among foreign allies and rights groups.

His re-election last October was dismissed by the opposition and some diplomats as a sham, over alleged rigging, the blocking of foreign media and observer teams and an oppressive military presence.

Analysts said that Magufuli had dealt a crushing blow to democracy in one of Africa’s most stable nations.

Magufuli also expanded free education, rural electrification and invested in infrastructure projects such as railways, a hydropower dam set to double electricity output and the revival of the national airline.

His government also passed a raft of laws to increase Tanzania’s stake in its mineral resources and demanded millions of dollars in back taxes from foreign mining companies.

But it is his handling of the coronavirus pandemic which cast his leadership style into sharp relief.

He championed prayer instead of face masks, before stopping the publication of statistics in April 2020 when the country had recorded a total of 509 cases and 16 deaths.

Tanzania became an outlier in a region which quickly implemented lockdowns, nightime curfews and travel restrictions to stem infections.

In May last year he revealed he had submitted a variety of fruit and animals to be tested for the virus and that a papaya, quail and goat tested positive, revealing “sabotage” at the national laboratory.

– ‘There is no Covid-19’ –
The devout Christian, who often took to the pulpit when he attended mass, later claimed prayer had saved the country from Covid-19.

“That’s why we are all not wearing face masks here. You think we don’t fear dying? It’s because there is no Covid-19,” he said.

However by February, under mounting pressure after the vice president of semi-autonomous Zanzibar was revealed to have died from the coronavirus, Magufuli appeared to concede the virus did in fact exist.

Under Tanzania’s constitution, Hassan will become the country’s first female president and will consult the ruling CCM party over the appointing of a new vice president.

His death plunges Tanzania into political certainly, said Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham.

“The news of Magufuli’s death will fundamentally reshape Tanzanian politics. Having dominated the political scene since his election, he leaves something of a political vacuum,” Cheeseman said.

“This will trigger fresh uncertainty and all eyes will be on internal CCM politics to see what deals have been struck in the ruling party about the balance of power after the transition.”

Tanzania: Five Years Under President Magufuli

In this file photo taken on August 29, 2020 Tanzania’s incumbent President and presidential candidate of ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) John Magufuli (R) speaks during the official launch of the party’s campaign for the October general election at the Jamhuri stadium in Dodoma, Tanzania.  ERICKY BONIPHACE / AFP

 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli, 61, came to power in 2015 as a blunt-talking man of the people, attacking corruption as promised in his first term but triggering accusations of a slide into authoritarianism.

2015: Zealous Clean-Up

After his October election Magufuli quickly gets to work, making wildly popular decisions such as scrapping lavish independence day celebrations in favour of a street clean-up.

He bans unnecessary foreign travel for government officials. Dozens implicated in corruption are suspended.

A Twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo spreads across the continent, where many tired of corruption scandals, ineffective civil services and government waste become enamoured of Magufuli’s “Bulldozer” style.

2016: Crackdown on media, Gays

Opposition leaders accuse Magufuli of throttling democracy after he bans political rallies and halts live coverage of parliament sessions.

In mid-2016 authorities begin what Human Rights Watch calls an “unprecedented crackdown” on the rights of the LGBT community, with a rise in arrests, threats, and the shutting of clinics providing AIDS-related services.

In November, the country passes the Media Services Act, with tough penalties for offences such as defamation, sedition and publishing false statements.

In December Maxence Melo, co-founder of the Jamii Forums whistleblowing website is arrested after refusing to comply with a 2015 law requiring him to reveal the site’s contributors.

2017: Mining Shakeup

A government commission says fraud in the mining sector has cost Tanzania $84 billion (75 billion euros) over 19 years, accusing foreign companies of failing to declare revenues.

Tanzania accuses gold mining company Acacia Mining, owned by Barrick Gold of Canada, of owing $190 billion in unpaid taxes and shuts down its right to export gold ore concentrate. Tanzania and Barrick later agree to a $300 million payment to resolve the tax demand.

In July, Tanzania passes new mining laws giving the state 16 per cent of equity in mining projects, allowing it to renegotiate contracts and increasing royalties on exports of gold, copper, silver, platinum and uranium.

Magufuli orders the army to build a wall around the country’s tanzanite mines to prevent smuggling and better control exports of the unique blue and violet gems.

In September, after a total of six arrests in 2017, current presidential candidate for the Chadema opposition party, Tundu Lissu, is shot 16 times in what his party says in an assassination attempt.

2018: Concern Grows

The country’s Catholic Church accuses Magufuli of violating democratic norms.

The European Union and United States issue statements criticising attacks on civil liberties and human rights.

Denmark announces the withdrawal of $10 million in aid owing to “unacceptable homophobic remarks”.

One local leader from Chadema is found beaten to death, while another is found hacked to death at his home. A female university student is shot dead as police disperse an opposition protest.

In March, an online content law imposes a stiff fee on bloggers and imposes fines for content considered “indecent, obscene (or) hate speech”, or even just for causing “annoyance”.

In July, Magufuli vows his ruling party will be “in power forever, for eternity”.

2019: Elections Boycott

In August, journalist Erick Kabendera is arrested. He is initially detained for questioning over his citizenship, then charged with publishing “false and seditious information”. These charges are then replaced with tax evasion and money laundering. He is freed seven months later after pleading guilty.

In November, Magufuli’s ruling party wins local elections with 99 per cent after an opposition boycott.

Rights activist Tito Magoti is arrested and charged with money laundering.

2020: Coronavirus Denial

In March Tanzania confirms its first case of coronavirus.

In April, Magufuli calls for three days of prayer, urging citizens to “continue praying to God and not depending on face masks.”

As cases shoot up at one of the fastest rates in East Africa, Magufuli accuses the health ministry of “creating panic” and April 29 becomes the last time the country gives official case numbers.

Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe slams a “state of denial” in government.

By July Magufuli is insisting there is no more Covid-19 in the country.

In June, Mbowe is hospitalised after being beaten up, and his leg broken, in what his party claimed was a “politically-motivated” attack.

The US accuses Tanzania of seeking to “stifle democratic norms” ahead of general elections, after the arrests of opposition members and the closure of a newspaper.

In July, Magufuli is nominated to seek re-election.

Lissu returns from three years in exile, having recovered, to run for president.

Tanzania To Free 5,500 Inmates From Overcrowded Prisons

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
Tanzania’s newly elected President John Magufuli delivers a speech during the swearing in ceremony in Dar es Salaam. Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

President John Magufuli on Monday ordered that around 5,500 inmates be freed from Tanzania’s overcrowded prisons at a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the country’s independence from colonial rule.

The populist president, who has publicly expressed both sympathy and derision for the country’s prison population, announced the mass pardon at an event marking Tanzania’s national day.

“I believe this will relieve those who were jailed on minor charges, and those who were unable to have lawyers represent them or money to pay fines,” Magufuli said in Mwanza, a city on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“The pardon will also help to decongest our prisons.”

Magufuli, who came to power in 2015 as a corruption-fighting “man of the people”, has toured overcrowded prisons in the past and ordered authorities to free those being held for long stretches without trial.

Tanzania’s current prison population is around 36,000, the government says, with some facilities considerably over capacity.

In July, Magufuli said his visit to a jail in Mwanza left him “saddened” because many prisoners had languished there many years without trial.

But he also drew criticism from rights watchdogs in 2018 by ordering that prisoners be made to work “day and night” and suggesting they should grow their own food and be kicked if they are lazy.

Magufuli’s talent for high-profile appearances that bolster his reputation as a no-nonsense leader have made him wildly popular among some.

But his intolerance of criticism, impulsiveness and disregard for due process worry others who see authoritarianism at the core of his populism.

The United States and Britain in August expressed concern about the steady erosion of due process under his rule, pointing to a growing tendency of authorities to resort to lengthy pre-trial detentions.

Nicknamed “tingatinga” — meaning “bulldozer” in Swahili — Magufuli has cowed the press, and many of his political opponents are routinely arrested. Some opposition activists have been kidnapped and beaten.

For the first time since his election, the main opposition party, Chadema, attended the national day celebrations, sharing the stage with Magufuli.

Chadema leader Freeman Mbowe called for a return to democratic norms and freedom of expression in Tanzania, which goes to the polls next year to choose a president.

“Mr President, you have the chance to make history by rectifying all these challenges,” he said.

Chadema boycotted last month’s local elections, citing intimidation, handing the ruling party a sweeping victory in polls criticised by the international community as lacking credibility.

Magufuli, 60, has not said whether he will stand for re-election to what would be his second and final term.

AFP

Tanzania President Orders Army To Buy Nuts

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
Tanzania’s newly elected President John Magufuli delivers a speech during the swearing-in ceremony in Dar es Salaam. Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has ordered the army to buy up the entire country’s crop of cashew nuts after private companies refused to pay the price fixed by his government.

The move comes just days after Magufuli fired Agriculture Minister Charles Tizeba and Trade Minister Charles Mwijage for “failing in their obligations” to the cashew industry.

Magufuli ordered soldiers to buy up the nuts at $1.44 (1.28 euros) per kilogramme, higher than the price companies were willing to pay, according to a government statement issued Monday.

Magufuli ordered in October that the price of cashews be almost doubled from $0.65 per kilogramme, price farmers said barely covered their production costs.

The president blamed “the procrastination of private operators, who were offering very low prices” for cashews — among the country’s biggest cash crops — for the decision to send in the army.

The state-owned Tanzania Agricultural Development Bank was ordered “to release the necessary funds for the purchase of these cashews, and the army is to deploy to buy the entire production,” the statement said.

Since his election three years ago Magufuli has picked numerous fights with private businesses that he accuses of giving Tanzanians a raw deal.

The state-owned cashew processing plant — where raw nuts are shelled — is also to be taken over by the army.

Magufuli’s government is hoping for a crop of 220,000 tonnes this year.

“We will buy the entire crop, then we will look for buyers and we will eat anything that is not sold,” Magufuli said, according to the statement.

AFP

Tanzania President Orders Arrest Of Ferry Operator After Tragedy

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
Tanzania’s President, John Magufuli.                                                              Photo: Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the management of a ferry that capsized in Lake Victoria, as the death toll climbed to 131 and rescue workers pressed on with the search to find scores more people feared drowned.

The MV Nyerere may have been carrying as many as 200 passengers — double the ferry’s capacity — when it capsized close to the pier on Ukara Island on Thursday, according to reports on state media.

Witnesses reached by AFP said the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock.

In a speech broadcast on TBC One public television, Magufuli said “It appears clear that the ferry was overloaded,” adding that “negligence has cost us so many lives… children, mothers, students, old people”.

“I ordered the arrest of all those involved in the management of the ferry. The arrests have already begun,” he added.

The president declared four days of national mourning while saying at least 131 people had died, updating an earlier death toll of 126.

Magufuli also announced the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.

Mwanza governor John Mongella had earlier said the number of survivors was 40, but it was unclear whether any new survivors had been found since rescue operations resumed with police and army divers on Friday morning.

“Operations are continuing,” he said, but hopes are fading that more survivors might still be found.

State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island, where it was market day when locals said the vessel was usually packed with people and goods.

“I have not heard from either my father or my younger brother who were on the ferry. They had gone to the market in Bugolora to buy a school uniform and other supplies for the new school term,” said Domina Maua, who was among those seeking information about loved ones.

Davita Ngenda, an elderly woman in Ukara, had already received bad news.

“My son is among the bodies recovered,” she said, weeping. “He had gone with his wife but she has not been found yet. My God, what did I do to deserve this?”

Sebastian John, a teacher, said such tragedies had become part of life for those living on the lake.

“Since my birth, people have gone to their deaths on this lake, but what are we to do? We did not choose to be born here, we have nowhere to go,” he said.

Overloading and ‘negligence’

It remains unclear how many people are still missing.

Tanzania’s Electrical, Mechanical and Services Agency, which is responsible for ferry services, said it was unknown how many passengers were aboard the MV Nyerere.

The ageing ferry, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible after it overturned, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized around 50 metres (55 yards) from Ukara dock.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but overloading is frequently to blame for such incidents.

The country’s opposition has accused the government of “negligence”.

“We have often raised concerns about the poor condition of this ferry, but the government turned a deaf ear. We have repeatedly denounced this negligence,” said John Mnyika, deputy secretary general of Chadema, the main opposition party.

Mnyika said overloading was “another failure of the authorities” and criticised “inadequate relief efforts as well as delays” in the rescue operation.

With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles), oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

Capsizes are not uncommon in the massive lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.

The deadliest such accident in recent decades was in May 1996, when around 800 people died after their ferry sank on the way to Mwanza in Tanzania.

AFP

My Party Will Rule Forever, Says Tanzania’s President

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
Tanzania’s President John Magufuli delivers a speech in Dar es Salaam.        Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli who has come under fire for his authoritarian leadership style has vowed that his ruling party will be “in power forever, for eternity”.

In a speech broadcast on radio and television late Monday, Magufuli said that opponents of his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party would “always have problems”.

His intervention is the latest in a string of controversial comments that included a suggestion over the weekend that prisoners be made to work “day and night” and receive kicks if they are lazy.

“The CCM is here and will continue to be here — forever. Members of the CCM, you can walk with your heads held high. There is no alternative to the CCM,” said Magafuli during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new party training center being built in Kibaha, outside the economic capital Dar es Salaam.

The $45 million (38.4 million euros) facility is being funded by a donation from China and will be dedicated to Julius Nyerere, modern Tanzania’s founding father and founder of the CCM.

Magufuli, who came to power in 2015, has previously angered rights groups with his campaigns against homosexuality and calls to bar pregnant girls from schools.

AFP

Tanzanian Newspaper Suspended For ‘Insulting President’

Photo: Wikimedia/Tanzania President John Magufuli

An independent Tanzanian newspaper has been suspended for two years, a government spokesman said on Tuesday, accusing the publication of sedition and endangering national security.

The critical Mwanahalisi newspaper was shut after publishing a letter on Monday from a reader containing “insults” against President John Magufuli and his government, said spokesman Hassan Abbasi.

Abbasi said the paper had received several warnings. The daily has been shuttered on several occasions in the past, for three months in 2008 and then three years between 2012 and 2015.

The offending letter said that Magufuli “claims to be a patriot but questions the patriotism of anyone who opposes him. This is hypocritical.”

Mocking Magufuli’s regular calls for people to pray for him, the article asks if in fact one should not rather pray for opposition lawmaker Tundu Lissu who was shot and injured earlier this month.

His party CHADEMA has accused the government of being involved in the attack.

Abbasi said the letter was the latest in a long line of violations of “ethics, principles of the journalistic profession by the publication of false, seditious articles that endanger national security”.

“Government is suspending printing and publication of the Mwanahalisi newspaper for 24 months,” said Abbasi.

The ban comes just three months after the weekly Mawio was suspended for two years for linking two former presidents to dubious mining contracts.

Since his October election Magufuli has shut down newspapers, banned opposition rallies, switched off live broadcasts of parliamentary sessions and used a draconian “cyber crimes” law to jail critics.

His government is also increasingly targeting the gay community.

“This suspension is absolutely excessive and is yet another example of the repression that is being experienced by Tanzanian media,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber of Reporters Without Borders.

AFP