Across Tanzania and around the world, people are asking, “who is the African leader currently being treated in Nairobi Hospital”. There is much speculation that this mystery leader is President Magufuli of Tanzania. You may have heard of him; he is part of a club of leaders who have either denied the existence of coronavirus or have seriously played down the threat of COVID-19. This is one club you do not want to be part of; its members include former US President Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and, UK’s Boris Johnson. To be fair, Johnson’s admission into hospital was the wake-up call that brought home the severity and threat of the virus.
As it stands, the Tanzanian authorities have stayed quiet and are not commenting on the circulating rumours. One can see why here’s a government that has peddled false information about the virus, sown division in the country, and are responsible for many lives lost. The supreme irony (if the rumours are true) is that President Magufuli mocked neighbouring countries like Kenya, who recognised the virus’s threat are now treating him and potentially saving his life. For a president who advocated prayer to ward of COVID, god is having a jolly old laugh.
I do not wish the man harm and hope he makes a recovery; it is the most Christian way to rationalise all this. He has a family, and no children should lose a parent under such difficult circumstances. What makes me angry is the inequality. The political class can travel to other countries for treatment, whilst ordinary citizens are told to inhale eucalyptus steam and blend smoothies. Every single member of the Magufuli administration must reflect upon their actions as their duplicity to hang on to power has cost many innocent lives. I feel in, and amongst all the despair and loss, the government has been given an opportunity to take a different course and to step up and lead.
What happens next is down to President Magufuli and his government, will they be concerned with being right or will they finally do what is right. Only time will tell.