Tanzanian President John Magufuli has died.
According to Christianity Today, in a statement, officials said Magufuli died of heart complications, but many suspected that the 62-year-old man had COVID-19.
“It is sad news. Our beloved president passed on at 6 p.m. this evening,” said Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who per the East African nation’s constitution will now become its first female president. “We have lost our courageous leader. All flags will be flown at half-mast for 14 days.”
His death comes less than a year after neighboring president Pierre Nkurunziza, of Burundi, died of COVID-19. Both men had been criticized for how they handled the pandemic.
Their deaths have led some religious leaders in the area to tell congregants that God may be punishing humans for their sins.
In a prayer service near Burundi’s capital recently, pastor Joseph Ndayizeye said people need to repent of their sins.
“It is not normal for the virus to invade the country and even kill the president,” prayed Ndayizeye, referring to Nkurunziza. “God punished us with the coronavirus pandemic because of our sins. Let us repent our sins and ask God for forgiveness and our prayers will be heard.
“You cannot kill innocent people and promote evil like same-sex marriage and go unpunished,” he added. “But our God is merciful. When we pray to him, there’s nothing impossible. He will defeat the coronavirus and we will be free.”
Burundi has reported about 2,500 coronavirus cases and three deaths. The country has closed its borders but will not be giving vaccines to the public.
“Since more than 95 percent of patients are recovering, we estimate that the vaccines are not yet necessary,” said health minister Thaddee Ndikumana, adding the country will focus on prevention measures.
The Jerusalem Post reports that President Magufuli was a vocal skeptic of COVID-19 and told Tanzanians they did not need to wear masks or get the vaccine. Magufuli had not been seen in public since late February. Less than a week ago, officials denied he was sick.
Hassan said Wednesday burial arrangements were being made. She is expected to be sworn in soon.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Panorama Images
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.