This man President Pombe Magufuli and the war against COVID-19 pandemic

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Tanzanian President John Magufuli. PHOTO/COURTESY

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has set tongues wagging after he announced that he was going to import a herbal treatment for Covid-19 from Madagascar.

The herbal remedy, called “Covid Organics” and prepared by the Malagasy Institute for Applied Research, is made out of Artemisia, a plant cultivated on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar.

Despite a lack of scientific evidence, President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar claimed that the remedy dubbed herbal tea has already cured some Madagascans of COVID-19. Children returning to school have been required to take it.

The island country had registered 135 infections of the pandemic as of Saturday, May 2, with zero deaths and 97 recoveries.The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, said there was no proof of a cure for the disease, warning against the widespread use of untested remedies

Many people have questioned the Tanzanian president’s wisdom in preferring a herbal treatment for Covid-19 as opposed to western medicine.

But Dr Magufuli is a respected scientist and a holder of masters and doctorate degrees in chemistry from The University of Dar es Salaam and so he is in a better position to guide his citizens as far as COVID-19 pandemic is concerned.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Dr Magufuli has openly raised his suspicions about the pandemic.

In March Dr Magufuli announced that his government would not shut down places of worship over the highly contagious coronavirus as according to him, these are the only places where true healing can be found.

Tanzania has reported 480 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic broke out. Kenya has 465 cases.

In his Labour Day address to the nation, Mr Magufuli asked Tanzanians to keep working and ignore naysayers “who don’t wish Tanzania well”.

“Some people are asking us to close down our markets. Where will we buy food for our six million people in Dar es Salaam?’’ President Magufuli asked as he branded those asking for such closures “short-sighted”.

Dr Magufuli has dismissed imported coronavirus testing kits as faulty, saying they returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw.

The Tanzanian head of state said there were “technical errors” with the tests.

They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.

These samples were then submitted to Tanzania’s laboratory to test for the coronavirus, with the lab technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins.

In the investigation ,samples from the pawpaw and the goat tested positive for COVID-19, the president said, adding this meant it was likely that some people were being tested positive when, in fact, they were not infected by the coronavirus.

“There is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” Magufuli said, adding the kits should be investigated.

He recently ordered security agencies to investigate the national referral laboratory over the ever rising positive results.

He added: “Do not be scared by the whims of short-sighted people. Our enemies want us to do such foolish things (close the markets). The situation is even worse in developed countries, who closed their markets.”

He said some rich countries, in spite of all their financial muscle, had lost more than 50,000 people to Covid-19, arguing that closure of businesses wasn’t the solution to the virus that has claimed nearly 250,000 lives globally.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli addressing the media. PHOTO/COURTESY

“In Tanzania, we won’t copy and paste what everyone else is doing. Let’s keep working, observe the precautions and ignore the naysayers,” he said.

Dr Magufuli has received the nickname “The Bulldozer” in reference to his roadworks projects, but the term has also been used in reference to his moves to reduce spending and corruption within the Tanzanian government.

Following Dr Magufuli’s initial rounds of cuts post-inauguration, the hashtag “#WhatWouldMagufuliDo” was used by Twitter users to demonstrate their own austerity measures inspired by the president.

Dr Magufuli’s government has been accused of attempting to repress opposition to his leadership, which included laws restricting opposition rallies, the suspension of the Swahili-language Mawio newspaper in 2016 for publishing “false and inflammatory” reporting regarding the nullification of election results in Zanzibar.

He has also threatened to shut down radio and television stations that do not pay licence fees, and a 2018 bill requiring blogs and other forms of online content providers to hold government licenses with content restrictions.

In September 2018, John Magufuli told a rally: “Those going for family planning are lazy … they are afraid they will not be able to feed their children. They do not want to work hard to feed a large family and that is why they opt for birth controls and end up with one or two children only.”

He urged people not to listen to those advising about birth control, some of it coming from foreigners, because it has sinister motives. The statement has drawn criticism from Amnesty International and others.

President Magufuli identifies himself as a devout Catholic. But he has been publicly denounced by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Tanzania for taking measures that suppress constitutional freedoms and, in the view of the bishops, represent a threat to national unity.

When questioned about closing churches during the coronavirus pandemic, he stated “That’s where there is true healing. Corona is the devil and it cannot survive in the body of Jesus.”

He is married to Janeth Magufuli, a primary school teacher, and they have three children. His monthly salary is $4008.

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