PHOTOS: Jonathan Leads AU Observer Team To Monitor Tanzania Polls

Jonathan is the head of the AU Observer team for the Tanzania election. Photo: [email protected] Jonathan.

 

 

Former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, led the African Union (AU) Observer Team to some polling stations in Dar es Salaam, as Tanzania holds its general election.

Jonathan tweeted some photos of himself and other members of the AU Observer Team at some of the polling units.

“The African Union sees today’s polls as yet another opportunity for the good people of the United Republic of Tanzania to deepen democracy and peace in the country,” the former Nigerian leader said.

See photos below:

Jonathan is the head of the AU Observer team for the Tanzania election. Photo: [email protected] Jonathan.
Jonathan is the head of the AU Observer team for the Tanzania election. Photo: [email protected] Jonathan.
Jonathan is the head of the AU Observer team for the Tanzania election. Photo: [email protected] Jonathan.

Overshadowed By Malpractice Fears 

Tanzanians began casting their ballots Wednesday morning in an election overshadowed by opposition fears the vote will not be free and fair after years of repression under President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term in office.

In semi-autonomous Zanzibar hundreds of men and women formed separate queues from before dawn in Garagara neighbourhood outside the capital Stone Town, where on Tuesday police fired teargas, live rounds and beat up civilians in the neighbourhood.

Long deemed a haven of stability in East Africa, observers say Tanzania has seen the stifling of democracy and a crackdown on freedom of speech under the 60-year-old Magufuli and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has been in power since 1961.

In the days leading up to the polls, the opposition said 10 people have died in violence in Zanzibar, while major social media networks — such as WhatsApp and Twitter — have been blocked across Tanzania.

Mnao Haji, 48, queuing to vote in Garagara, said she hoped the election “will be peaceful” despite a history of contested polls.

“During the clashes with police teargas fell inside my house. I screamed, crying, I was helpless,” she said as heavily armed officers and soldiers looked on.

On mainland Tanzania, Magufuli’s main challenger among 15 presidential candidates is Tundu Lissu, 52, of the Chadema opposition party.

Tanzania Votes In Election Marred By Violence, Fears Of Fraud

Voters check the voter’s roll at a polling station, some begin to cast their votes on October 28, 2020. AFP

 

Tanzanians began casting their ballots Wednesday morning in an election overshadowed by opposition fears the vote will not be free and fair after years of repression under President John Magufuli, who is seeking a second term in office.

In semi-autonomous Zanzibar hundreds of men and women formed separate queues from before dawn in Garagara neighbourhood outside the capital Stone Town, where on Tuesday police fired teargas, live rounds and beat up civilians in the neighbourhood.

Long deemed a haven of stability in East Africa, observers say Tanzania has seen the stifling of democracy and a crackdown on freedom of speech under the 60-year-old Magufuli and his Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has been in power since 1961.

In the days leading up to the polls, the opposition said 10 people have died in violence in Zanzibar, while major social media networks — such as WhatsApp and Twitter — have been blocked across Tanzania.

Mnao Haji, 48, queuing to vote in Garagara, said she hoped the election “will be peaceful” despite a history of contested polls.

“During the clashes with police teargas fell inside my house. I screamed, crying, I was helpless,” she said as heavily armed officers and soldiers looked on.

On mainland Tanzania, Magufuli’s main challenger among 15 presidential candidates is Tundu Lissu, 52, of the Chadema opposition party.

He returned to the country in July after three years abroad recovering from 16 bullet wounds sustained in what he believes was a politically-motivated assassination attempt.

Lissu’s return has reinvigorated an opposition demoralised by a ban on political rallies outside of election time, multiple arrests and attacks.

He expressed fears during the campaign that the polls would be rigged, leading to a seven day ban of his rallies for “seditious” language.

“I have witnessed through the campaign that Tanzanians are ready for changes and I believe they will turn out to vote tomorrow,” he said at his final rally Tuesday.

In Tanzania’s capital Dodoma, voters began casting their votes at Jamhuri Secondary School.

“It’s one of my important activities today. I don’t want to miss voting at all,” said Omary Msongolo.

In the northern town of Moshi, near Africa’s highest peak of Kilimanjaro, Nestor Shoo urged the electoral commission to show “impartiality, so that there can be peace”.

The opposition and analysts have expressed serious concerns about the fairness of the election, pointing in particular to a polls body comprising commissioners personally appointed by Magufuli.

‘A Farce’

On Zanzibar, citizens vote for their own president and lawmakers, as well as for the Tanzanian president.

In a boost for the opposition’s chances, Zitto Kabwe, the head of the popular ACT-Wazalendo party, has endorsed Lissu for the presidency on the mainland.

In return, Chadema is backing veteran opposition candidate Seif Sharif Hamad in his sixth bid for the presidency in Zanzibar, this time against CCM candidate Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi.

Zanzibar has a history of tense elections plagued with violence and irregularities and the opposition has again accused the ruling party of seeking to steal the vote.

“How can you have an election were you have teargas everywhere and live ammunition? It is in no case a fair election, it is just a farce,” said Hamad.

Increasing intolerance

Magufuli, elected in 2015, at first made wildly popular moves such as curbing foreign travel for government officials or showing up in person to make sure civil servants were doing their work.

Then, he banned political rallies and became increasingly intolerant of dissent.

A series of tough media laws were passed, arrests of journalists, activists and opposition members soared and several opposition members were killed.

Magufuli touts his expansion of free education, rural electrification and infrastructure projects such as railways, a hydropower dam and the revival of the national airline.

However analysts say while the economy grew at an impressive pre-coronavirus average of six percent, there was little job creation and aggressive tax collection has hurt the private sector and made doing business harde. The IMF expects growth to slow to 1.9 percent this year.

The election campaign has taken place with little regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tanzania stopped giving out official data on infections in April, and Magufuli has declared the country Covid-free, which he attributes to the power of prayer.

On the mainland, just over 29 million registered voters will cast their ballots, while some 566,000 will vote in Zanzibar from 7 am (0400 GMT) until 4 pm (1300 GMT).

African Leagues: Tanzania First To Start New Season Amid Virus

A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.
A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.

 

 

Tanzania again became the first African League to kick off during the coronavirus crisis when they opened the 2020/2021 league season on Sunday.

The championship was also the first to resume last season after a Covid-19 shutdown, playing from June with spectators permitted.

While Tanzanian clubs have started their new season, South Africa only completed their 2019/2020 season two days ago. Tunisia will finish theirs this Sunday and clubs in Egypt have between nine and 12 fixtures still to fulfil.

A resurgence of the virus in Morocco led to many postponements, but leaders Raja Casablanca and potential title rivals Wydad Casablanca are scheduled to play Wednesday.

Here is the AFP round-up of all the football action in Africa across the weekend.

Tanzania
Defending champions Simba SC won 2-1 at promoted Ihefu 2-1 after naming Barbara Gonzalez as the first female chief executive of a top-flight Tanzanian club.

Zambian Clatous Chama starred for the winners, who completed a league and cup double last season, and set up captain John Bocco for the opening goal of the match.

Likely chief rivals Young Africans were held 1-1 at home by Prisons in their first league match under Serb coach Zlatko Krmpotic, who has worked in five other African countries.

Egypt
Zamalek defeated third-place Pyramids 2-0 and mid-table El Gaish 1-0 to build a six-point lead in the race for second spot behind runaway leaders Al Ahly.

Mostafa Mohamed and Democratic Republic of Congo-born Kabongo Kasongo scored against Pyramids and Youssef Obama netted to sink Gaish.

Finishing second is significant because it secures a place in the CAF Champions League, which carries a $2.5 million (2.1 million euros) first prize.

Tunisia
Etoile Sahel, the only club to win all five current and past CAF club competitions, slipped to a 1-0 defeat away at relegation-threatened CS Hammam-Lif and remain fifth in a disappointing campaign.

Fares Meskini snatched the winning goal three minutes from time to lift Hammam-Lif above JS Kairouan and out of the danger zone, but only on goal difference, with two rounds to go.

Esperance, who were crowned champions last weekend, play at US Monastir Monday while second-place CS Sfaxien drew 0-0 at Stade Tunisien.

Morocco
Raja suffered a shock 1-0 home loss against second-last Ittihad Tangier, ending an unbeaten seven-match run since the league restarted in August after a five-month shutdown.

Youssef Anouar scored for Tangier on 74 minutes to boost the title hopes of third-place Wydad, the defending champions who trail Raja by five points but have two matches in hand.

Twelve of the 16 top-flight clubs have reported at least one positive case for Covid-19, leading to all teams having to stay in a hotel or sport centre.

South Africa
Mamelodi Sundowns won a third straight title at the weekend and now the focus switches to three-club play-offs for one lucrative 2020/2021 elite league place.

Black Leopards, who came second last in the Premiership, second division runners-up Ajax Cape Town and third-place Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila will contest a double-round mini-league.

The table-toppers qualify for the richest African league with clubs guaranteed a 2.5 million rand ($150,000, 125,000 euros) monthly allowance and millions more in prize money.

AFP

PHOTOS: 117 Stranded Nigerians Return From Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania

In this photo released by @AzmanAir on August 2, 2020, returnees disembark from an airplane following their evacuation from three East African countries.

 

A total of 117 Nigerians stranded in three East African countries as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have returned home.

They were brought back to the country on Sunday from Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The airplane which evacuated the returnees from the three East African countries touched down at about 3am at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

A Nigerian airline, Azman Air, which conducted the evacuation exercise, announced the arrival of the returnees in an early-morning tweet.

 

In line with the guidelines of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on evacuation, the returnees are expected to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

At the end of the isolation period, they are also expected to take another test to ascertain their COVID-19 status before reuniting with the society.

 

US Evacuees Now 1,430

Their return to the country came barely a day after the Nigeria Government evacuated 300 more Nigerians stranded in the United States.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a tweet on Saturday, confirmed that a total of 300 citizens were brought back to the country.

 

According to the agency, the evacuation of the new set of returnees who also arrived at the international airport in Lagos via Ethiopian Airlines is the fifth from the US since the government began the exercise.

All the returnees had tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding the flight and would also observe the mandatory 14-day self-isolation as directed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The latest evacuation brings to 1,430 the total number of Nigerians who returned from the US.

Highpoints of the arrival of the stranded Nigerians from the three East African countries are captured in the photos below:

Ex-Tanzania President Mkapa Died Of Malaria, Not COVID-19 – Family

Personnel of The Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) salute the coffin of late former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on July 26, 2020.  AFP

 

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa was suffering from malaria and died of a heart attack, his family said Sunday, scotching rumours that he succumbed to coronavirus.

“Mkapa was found with malaria and he was admitted for treatment since Wednesday,” family member William Erio revealed during a funeral mass broadcast on state television TBC1.

Mkapa, who ruled the East African country for two terms from 1995 to 2005, died early Friday aged 81 in a Dar es Salaam hospital but the government did not reveal the cause of the death.

“He was feeling better on Thursday and I was with him until 8:00 pm that day,” Erio said.

“After watching the evening news bulletin, he died of cardiac arrest,” Erio added, saying he wished to dispel rumours spreading on social media that Mkapa had contracted the new coronavirus.

President John Magufuli attended the funeral mass along with his vice president and prime minister at the national stadium.

The opposition has accused Magufuli’s government of a lack of transparency regarding its handling of a pandemic which the president said last Monday was no longer present in the country as he urged tourists to return.

Tanzania ceased publishing official statistics on the virus on April 29 and, unlike its neighbours, has taken no specific measures designed to halt its spread.

Officially, Tanzania has logged a mere 509 COVID-19 cases to date whereas neighbours such as Kenya and DR Congo have respectively registered more than 16,000 and more than 8,000.

Questions arose over Mkapa’s cause of death after Magufuli did not immediately make an official announcement on the time, place and cause in line with 2006 legislation.

Mkapa, who was the country’s third president after independence from Britain in 1962, will be buried in his home village in the southeastern region of Mtwra on Wednesday.

After leaving office he remained active, taking part in mediation talks in Kenya after 2007-08 election violence.

He also attempted, unsuccessfully, to mediate between Burundi’s government and opposition groups after a disputed 2015 election plunged the country into crisis.

AFP

Former Tanzanian President Mkapa Dies Aged 81

Benjamin William Mkapa
In this file photo taken on August 31, 2005 outgoing President of Tanzania Benjamin William Mkapa speaks to African Union diplomats during a session of the African Union, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, ahead of key WTO talks in Hong Kong, in December.  BORIS HERGER / AFP

 

Former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa has died age 81 in a Dar es Salaam hospital, the government announced Friday.

He was the country’s third president after independence from Britain in 1962 and ruled from 1995 to 2005.

“I’m saddened by the death of the third president of Tanzania and that is a big loss for us as a country. Let’s pray for him and more information will follow later,” said President John Magufuli in a short televised speech.

He did not reveal the cause of death.

Mkapa was born in 1938 to a poor family in south-eastern Mtwara.

He earned a degree in English in Uganda and later worked as a journalist before being appointed the press secretary for the country’s first president Julius Nyerere.

He held several cabinet posts, such as foreign minister and information minister and also served as ambassador to the United States before he was elected president.

Tanzania will hold a period of seven days of mourning, during which the national flag will be flown at half mast.

Mkapa had most recently attempted to mediate between Burundi’s government and opposition groups after a disputed 2015 election plunged the country into crisis, however the government repeatedly refused to take part and the talks went nowhere.

AFP

 

Miner Becomes Millionaire After Uncovering ‘Biggest’ Precious Stones In Tanzania

Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with the enlarged cheque copy from the government after selling two of the biggest of the country's precious gemstones, Tanzanite, during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP
Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with the enlarged cheque copy from the government after selling two of the biggest of the country’s precious gemstones, Tanzanite, during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP

 

A Tanzanian small-scale miner has become a multi-millionaire after uncovering two of the biggest of the country’s precious tanzanite stones ever found and selling them to the government.

Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, found the stones weighing 9.27 and 5.1 kilogrammes (20.4 and 11.2 pounds) respectively in the northern Mirerani hills, an area which President John Magufuli had fenced off in 2018 to stop smuggling of the gem.

He sold them to the government for 7.7 billion Tanzanian shillings (nearly $3.3 million/2.9 million euros)

Tanzanite was first found in the foothills of Kilimanjaro in 1967, and the northern Tanzanian region of Manyara is the only known place where the stones, coveted by jewellers by their remarkable violet-blue sparkle, are found.

At a function celebrating the find in Manyara on Wednesday, mining minister Dotto Biteko said the stones were the biggest ever uncovered in the country.

Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with two of the biggest of the country's precious gemstones, Tanzanite, as a millionaire during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP
Tanzanian small-scale miner Saniniu Kuryan Laizer, 52, poses with two of the biggest of the country’s precious gemstones, Tanzanite, as a millionaire during the ceremony for his historical discovery in Manyara, northern Tanzania, on June 24, 2020. Filbert RWEYEMAMU / AFP

 

“Laizer is our (shilling) billionaire and let us make sure that he is safe,” he said.

“We are now moving from a situation where the small miners were smuggling tanzanite, and now they are following the procedures and paying government taxes and royalties.”

Laizer said he hoped to use the money to develop his community.

“I plan to build a mall in Arusha and a school near my home,” said Laizer.

“I thank God for this achievement because it’s the first time to get this size. When I found these, I notified government officials who valuated the stones and today they called me for payment.”

The government wrote on Twitter that the stones would be placed in the national museum.

Magufuli made a call to Laizer during the ceremony that was broadcast on loudspeakers, to congratulate him.

“This is the benefit to small miners and testifies to the fact that Tanzania is rich,” he said.

When the 24km (14-mile) perimeter wall was unveiled around the mining site, Magufuli said that 40 percent of all tanzanite produced at the site was being lost to smugglers.

Magufuli has taken multiple steps to regulate the mining sector, which has faced allegations of fraud and underreporting of production and profits.

Tanzania in 2017 introduced new regulations obliging foreign companies to give 16 percent free shares to the government

Tanzania First African Country To Restart League Amid COVID-19

(Files) Tanzania poses before playing Kenya in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations group match in Cairo last June. Khaled DESOUKI / AFP.

 

Tanzania this weekend became the first African country to resume a national league suspended during March because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Young Africans, who have been champions a record 22 times, won 1-0 away to Mwadui and Coastal Union overcame a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with visiting Namungo Saturday.

Runaway leaders Simba and Azam will both enjoy home advantage Sunday in the other two matches scheduled for this weekend.

Simba have 71 points with 10 matches to play, Azam and Young Africans share second place on 54 and Namungo lie fourth with 51.

Tanzania suspended the 20-club national championship in mid-March as the COVID-19 outbreak began to wreak havoc throughout Africa.

According to the Africa Centre for Disease Control on June 13, 225,126 people in Africa have been infected with 6,051 deaths.

READ ALSO: Messi Caps Barcelona Win Over Mallorca On La Liga Return

Spectators were permitted as the league resumed in the east African state, but the elderly, who are generally most vulnerable to the virus, and children were barred.

Before being allowed into a stadium, fans must wear a face mask, wash hands with soap or use a hand sanitiser, and have their temperature checked.

Once inside, spectators must practice social distancing by sitting or standing several metres apart.

Footballers, referees, coaches and support staff are subject to equally strict measures to combat the virus, and change rooms are fumigated before and after matches.

– Carried on playing –

Burundi, a tiny, landlocked country bordering Tanzania, were the only African country to continue playing top-flight football during the pandemic.

Footballers in Belarus, Nicaragua, Taiwan and Tajikistan also carried on playing while the rest of the global football industry shut down temporarily.

Le Messager Ngozi have 58 points and Musongati 55 in a two-club race for the Burundi title with two rounds remaining, which are set for the weekends of June 20/21 and 27/28.

Ngozi have won the Primus Ligue once while Musongati, who have also reached the FA Cup final, are seeking a maiden title.

Musongati were scheduled to meet Rukinzo in the cup final Saturday but the match was delayed as the country is mourning deceased president Pierre Nkurunziza.

Nkurunziza, 55, who had been due to step down in August after ruling Burundi for 15 years, died last Monday from a heart attack, according to the government.

A devout evangelical who believed he was chosen by God to lead Burundi, Nkurunziza will be succeeded by Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Tanzania played at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after a 39-year absence while Burundi competed for the first time.

Both the Tanzanian Taifa Stars and the Burundian Swallows exited after the first round having lost their three group matches.

AFP

Tanzania Resumes Football League Amid COVID-19 Concerns

A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.
A file photo of the Tanzanian national flag.

 

Tanzania’s football league resumed on Saturday after three months of suspension as the country insists its coronavirus outbreak is under control despite coming under fire for keeping its data secret.

Tanzania has officially recorded 509 cases, but has not given any data update since April 29, and while President John Magufuli assures cases have dropped, the United States has raised the alarm about the outbreak.

Compared to its neighbours Tanzania took very few measures to combat the virus, and opened up universities and international flights earlier this month.

The football league resumed with two games, and one was broadcast live, showing fans shaking hands after the match and sitting closely together without masks — despite a government call for caution.

Government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said he had personally inspected the second game at Mkwakwani Stadium in northern Tanga and was “satisfied the preparations and health guidelines are observed.”

Ahead of the resumption of the league, players were optimistic.

“I’m prepared for the league and apart from taking the precautions, I leave the rest to God,” said Dar es Salaam Young African (Yanga) Sports Club player Deus Kaseke, whose team played Saturday.

Defending champions Simba hold an unassailable lead of 71 points from 28 matches, with a further 17 more rounds of games before completion of the championship in July.

The winner will qualify for the African Champions League next season.

Tanzania Reopens Universities Despite COVID-19 Concerns

Students of Al-Haramain secondary school learn social studies as they attend their first day of re-opened school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on June 1, 2020. – All universities and form six, the final grade, of secondary schools have resumed after the government closed all schools on March 18, 2020, to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP.

 

Universities in Tanzania reopened on Monday, despite a lack of clarity on the spread of coronavirus after the government decided to stop updating figures in April.

As students entered dozens of campuses across Tanzania for the first time since mid-March, there were only cursory efforts to impose measures preventing the spread of COVID-19.

New hand-washing stations were spottily used while crowded lecture halls made a mockery of social distancing, leaving some students concerned.

“My parents were not happy to allow me back to the college, but there’s no way since it’s the government order to resume classes,” said Christopher Andrew, one of around 6,000 students at Dar es Salaam University College of Education.

In one lecture hall, a teacher admonished students after most removed their masks as they sat down.

“Next time, if you don’t wear a mask you will not get access to my class,” the lecturer warned.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: South Africans Rush to Liquor Stores As Booze Ban Lifts

Student Aisha Abdul said it was impossible to follow hygiene guidance.

“It’s difficult to sit a metre apart because the course has a lot of students and that means the space is not enough to comply with social distancing principles,” she said.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and his government has not released official infection figures since April 29, when a total of 480 cases and 16 deaths had been recorded.

A government spokesperson said figures were not being released to avoid panic.

“Absence of data is actually my biggest worry,” said one concerned student, who did not want to be named. “If the trend shows decreasing cases then why should they worry to give us hope?”

“We are forced to believe that COVID-19 cases have dropped,” he said, adding that despite the uncertainty, “I need to finish my degree, so there’s no way I can dodge classes.”

Others, however, welcomed the reopening as a chance to see friends and get out of their homes.

“I was bored staying home. This is the moment I have been waiting for!” said Salha Juma, adding that he would “take precautions”.

The political opposition, foreign governments and activists have all criticised Tanzania for hiding information.

“It’s important we get complete and regular information so that we know the direction and can take relevant decisions,” said Onesmo Ole-Ngurumwa, national coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

AFP

Tanzania To Re-Open Universities, Sports Facilities Next Month

Tanzania Church Accuses Govt Of Harming Democracy
File photo of Tanzania’s President John Magufuli. PHOTO: Daniel Hayduk / AFP

 

Tanzanian President John Magufuli said on Thursday that universities and sports events would resume next month after he declared that prayer had spared the country the worst of the coronavirus, even as critics say cases are soaring.

Magufuli has repeatedly played down the gravity of the pandemic, and it has been three weeks since the country released official data on case numbers, which stood at 480 with 16 deaths on April 29.

However, while the US embassy has said there was evidence of “exponential growth” and the opposition denounces a dangerous “cover-up”, Magufuli is proceeding to open up the East African nation.

READ ALSO: South Sudan’s Vice President Tests Positive For Coronavirus

“We have decided to reopen universities starting June 1, 2020,” Magufuli said at a political event in the capital Dodoma, adding that a decision on schools would be taken later.

He said sports events would resume on the same date, with social distancing measures taken for spectators.

“In the current trend, I have not heard any sports person died from the coronavirus and that means sports are not only important for fun but also in the fight against the viral disease,” he said.

The closing of schools and universities, the halting of sports events and flight restrictions were the only measures taken in Tanzania to curb the spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, Tanzania lifted restrictions on flights and said those entering the country would no longer need to undergo mandatory quarantine.

Neighbours such as Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya imposed full lockdowns or curfews and movement restrictions.

Kenya, last week, angered Tanzania by closing its land border to anything but cargo after a rising number of cases were imported from the country.

More than 100 truck drivers from Tanzania have been turned away after testing positive at the Kenyan border in recent days.

However, Magufuli said on Sunday that cases had “drastically dropped in hospitals following prayers.”

He declared three days of prayer starting Friday to thank God, while Dar es Salaam regional commissioner Paul Makonda has urged residents to come together and play music and make as much noise as possible on Sunday to celebrate.

Magufuli, 60, was elected in 2015 after winning support for his anti-corruption platform. Nicknamed “the bulldozer”, his no-nonsense attitude initially won him praise, but he has been accused of increasing authoritarianism.

Rights groups say his government has cracked down on the opposition and media.

AFP

Africa CDC Says Tanzania COVID-19 Tests ‘Very Reliable’

 

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday sought to ease concerns by Tanzania that the country’s coronavirus test kits were faulty.

President John Magufuli on Monday suspended top officials at the country’s national laboratory, after saying he had secretly had animals and fruits tested — and a goat, a quail and pawpaw were found positive with the virus.

He cast doubt on the credibility of laboratory equipment and technicians and questioned official data on the epidemic.

“The tests that Tanzania and all African countries are using are tests that we have validated and we know that they are performing very well,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC.

“We are very instrumental in training, providing training to nearly all countries and providing them with test kits. We’ve also in the last couple of weeks and months distributed tests from the Jack Ma Foundation that have been validated and proven to be very, very reliable.”

Magufuli has come under fire for repeatedly playing down the gravity of the virus, and his country is one of few in Africa that have not taken extensive measures to curb the spread.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 150,000 In Europe

After Magufuli on April 22 accused the health ministry of stoking panic by releasing new figures, the country has only updated its numbers once, on April 29, at which date it had recorded 480 cases.

He has urged citizens to keep attending church and the mosque, and his officials have suggested inhaling steam to fight the virus. Magufuli has also said he is in talks with Madagascar for a herbal tea the island nation claims cures the disease.

Baptised Covid-Organics, the drink is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment — and other indigenous herbs.

Several African nations have expressed an interest in the purported remedy and the African Union has sought technical data from Madagascar.

“We should not discount anything at this point, we should know that the solutions may come completely from unexpected quarters,” said Nkengasong.

But he reiterated the scientific position that any claimed cure should be submitted to meticulous testing to see whether it is safe and effective.

“All we ask is that there should be a standard way of doing things that follow a standard protocol that is known in the scientific community,” he said.

“Scientists and public health experts should be leading these efforts in the country and… no-one should be in the haste to declare and make any announcement on any remedy or herbal product that has not been tested rigorously.”

AFP