Magufuli: Tanzanians should be told nothing but the truth

President John Magufuli at the Tanganyika Parkers Grounds in Dar es Salaam, October 14, 2020. [Reuters]

In the recent past, there have been public concerns over the state of two good friends; Tanzanian President John Magufuli and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

There have been rumors that the Tanzanian leader is ailing and that he has been flown to Kenya and admitted to a Nairobi hospital. Other sources have claimed that Mr. Magufuli, who has doubted the existence of Covid-19, is being treated for the disease in India.

The Tanzanian authorities have dismissed these claims and asserted that the ‘Bulldozer’ was busy at work. But the fact that Magufuli has not been seen or heard in the past two weeks has compounded matters.

That, as expected, has created anxiety and spawned rumors inside and outside Tanzania. Whether he is ill or as fit as a fiddle, the people of Tanzania need to know.

Magufuli and his handlers should learn from his friend Raila. When he fell sick and was admitted to Nairobi Hospital last week, Raila not only informed Kenyans that he had been taken ill, but also revealed that he had tested positive for Covid-19. He similarly made it known yesterday that he had been released from hospital.

Granted, no leader is obligated to reveal what they are suffering from. Leaders have a right to medical privacy just like the rest of us. But being public figures, the public needs to know when they are unwell -- even if they do not delve into the nature or extent of their ailment/s.

The truth of the matter is that despite their greatness, leaders are not immune to ill health nor are they immortal. And although leaders’ health determines whether they remain at the helm, concealing their ill-health is disingenuous and can’t guarantee their stay in power. In any case, the health of a leader rarely relaxes a leader’s grip on power in Africa.

That aside, if Magufuli is busy at work, as is being claimed by the Tanzanian authorities, the citizens have a right to know. Leaders are servants of the people. The people must know what they are doing. If indeed Magufuli is locked up somewhere working, he must make his voice heard to ease the tension and speculation brought forth by his absence.

His continued absence from the public space and silence can only breed more speculation and anxiety. That needn’t be the case for at the end of the day, Tanzanians and the world will know the truth. If, per chance, it turns out the authorities were skewing the truth, that will dent their reputation. They should tell us the truth and the truth will set them free.