Why fallen Tanzania President John Magufuli was named Pombe

The coffin of late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli draped in the national flag, is seen during the state funeral procession at Uhuru Stadium, the venue of the national requiem Mass in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 20, 2021. [Reuters]

The late President John Pombe Magufuli was the third child out of 12, born to parents Joseph Magufuli Marko and Suzanna Ngolo Musa.

When he was born his grandmother was preparing alcohol and named him Walwa, which in the Sukuma language means Pombe (alcohol). That is how the former President earned the name Pombe.

Magufuli's state requiem was held in Dodoma on Monday.

President Uhuru Kenyatta was in attendance as were Malawi's Lazarus Chakwera and Edgar Lungu of Zambia as well as Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi Vice President Prosper Bazombanza.

At least 17 African leaders had confirmed attendance at the state funeral of former Tanzanian President Magufuli, chief government spokesman Hassan Abbasi said Sunday.

Also in attendance were head of states Comoros, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And they did.

The presidents of Rwanda, Angola and Burundi were represented by high ranking officials.

Also at the funeral was Magufuli's widow and former Tanzania Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete.

Magufuli was eulogised as a leader who loved his country and pushed for progressive change.

Speakers also thanked Presidents, ambassadors and Prime Ministers who attended the funeral at Dodoma, saying it was evident that Tanzania's neighbours and allies are also in mourning.

Magufuli was praised for boosting transport, both local and international, as well as fighting graft and eulogised as the President who pushed for the expansion of Judiciary capacity and making education accessible for all.

He built and renovated classrooms and teachers' quarters as well as considering the needs for special care groups.

Opposition politicians said the late President may have died of Covid-19, claims which have not been confirmed.

Magufuli, 61, will be buried in his native home in Chato district in Geita region on March 26. 

Magufuli had not been seen in public since February 27, sparking rumours that he had contracted Covid-19. Officials denied on March 12 that he had fallen ill. He was Tanzania’s first president to die while in office.

He died of heart disease Wednesday at the Emilio Mzena Hospital in the business capital Dar es Salaam.

Residents openly wept and lined roads with fabric as well as throwing flowers on Magufuli’s coffin as it was pulled by a military vehicle.

Tanzania's newly-sworn President  Samia Suluhu Hassan will be the East African nation’s first female president, joining a thin list of women in the continent in the top job.