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Tanzania’s President John Magufuli Dead at 61

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has died after weeks out of the public eye.

Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan reported Mr. Magufuli’s death on state television shortly before midnight on Wednesday, saying he had died of heart complications while being treated in Dar es Salaam’s Mzena hospital.

“Our beloved president passed on at 6 p.m. this evening,” said Suluhu. “All flags will be flown at half-mast for 14 days. It is sad news. The president has had this illness for the past 10 years.”

Magufuli had first been briefly admitted to the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute on March 6 but was subsequently discharged, Hassan said on state television. But he was rushed to hospital again on March 14 after feeling unwell.

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After the death was announced, opposition leader Zitto Kabwe said he had spoken to Hassan to offer condolences for Magufuli’s death.

“The nation will remember him for his contribution to the development of our country,” Kabwe said in a statement published on Twitter.

According to Tanzania’s Constitution, Hassan, 61, should assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year term that Magufuli began serving last year after winning a second term.

Nicknamed the “Bulldozer”, Magufuli was elected in 2015 on promises to tackle corruption and boost infrastructure development. He won a second term in a disputed poll last year.

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Born on October 29, 1959, in northern Tanzania in a fishing village near the shores of Lake Victoria, John Pombe Magufuli worked as a high-school mathematics and chemistry teacher before training as an industrial chemist.

He was elected a lawmaker for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in 1995 and served a decade as works and infrastructure minister, forging a reputation as an incorruptible enforcer of government policies, including the construction of multibillion-dollar road and railway projects.

Just days after coming to power in late 2015, Mr. Magufuli canceled a lavish Independence Day ceremony and directed that the funds be used to widen a highway notorious for traffic jams in Tanzania’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam.

Weeks later, he banned foreign travel for all civil servants, a move that saved his government some $430 million during its first year, according to the central bank. He outlawed political rallies, arguing that voters should be left alone during nonelection years to focus on building the nation.

Mr. Magufuli argued those heavy-handed moves were necessary to change the economic status quo, in which the gulf between politically connected elites and poor farmers and blue-collar workers was widening.

Mr. Magufuli is survived by his wife, Janeth, and five children.

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