Chato residents bid President Magufuli farewell ahead of burial

The body of President John Pombe Magufuli has this morning been moved to his ancestral home in Chato for public viewing and burial on Friday.

Chato, Geita and neighbouring residents are today paying their last respects to the late president at the Magufuli Stadium, as has been the norm all week as his body was moved through different towns in Tanzania, to allow for public mourning.

Close family, relatives and friends of Magufuli are also attending the private funeral service in Chato.

Security has been heightened at the ceremony led by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, and attended by the second Vice President of Zanzibar Hemed Suleiman Abdulla, and Head of Defence Forces General Venance Mabeyo.

Magufuli’s body lay-in-state as members of the public bid him farewell, unlike other days of the week where it made a procession through major Tanzanian towns.

Thousands lined up as the hearse containing the coffin made way into the grounds on Thursday, accompanied by military vehicles.

Despite fears of widespread infections of Covid-19, several mourners still wore no masks.

Zanzibar’s second VP Suleiman Abdalla praised the president for taking the lead on several development projects in the East African nation, saying that he left a legacy in all sectors including education, finance, transport and others.

“The pain of losing President Magufuli does only affect Tanzanians. It is being felt worldwide,” he said.

Military officers salute the coffin of late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli draped in the national flag, during the state funeral at Uhuru stadium, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. [Reuters]

Yesterday, Mwanza residents got the rare opportunity to celebrate and mourn the late Tanzanian president, as they followed vehicles ferrying Magufuli’s body from the airport to CCM Kirumba Stadium.

President Magufuli will be buried tomorrow at his Chato home, Geita in northwestern Tanzania.

President Samia Suluhu is expected to lead Tanzanian citizens in sending him off.

Magufuli died on March 17 after a 10-year battle with heart complications.

Before his death, he had declared Tanzania “Covid-free” and would later express doubt on the safety of masks and vaccines.

He was a Covid-19 skeptic who urged Tanzanians to shun mask-wearing and denounced vaccines as a Western conspiracy, frustrating the World Health Organisation (WHO) efforts to contain the pandemic.