Samia Suluhu: Announcing Magufuli’s death felt like a mistake

Tanzania's newly sworn-in President Samia Suluhu says announcing her predecessor Joseph Pombe Magufuli's death felt like a mistake.

Suluhu was speaking in Tanzania's administrative capital of Dodoma on Monday at the state funeral of President John Pombe Magufuli who died on March 17.

Suluhu admitted that the requiem was the second hardest day in her life after having to announce Magufuli’s death.

She said announcing the death felt like she was making a mistake, but the announcement had to be made.

“It is a hard day for Tanzania, and a harder day for me.”

Tanzania's new President Samia Suluhu Hassan takes the oath of office following the death of her predecessor John Pombe Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 19, 2021. [REUTERS/Stringer]

“In front of us is Magufuli’s body, someone we were used to seeing in the seat I occupy today.”

Suluhu went on, “We all have to die, but this death is something we did not expect.”

She said Tanzanians were in shock and grief and that Magufuli’s death was a reality that is hard to accept.

Suluhu said when she informed President Uhuru Kenyatta of Dr Magufuli's death, he promised to attend the funeral by all means.

Presidents and head of states were in Dodoma today.  President Suluhu Hassan thanked them, saying Tanzania will never forget that gesture of international solidarity.

Magufuli was remembered as one who put people’s needs before his.

Military officers carry the coffin of President John Pombe Magufuli draped in Tanzania's national flag. [Reuters]

The numbers at Dodoma are reflective of the situation in Mwanza, Chato and Zanzibar, all showing how much Magufuli was loved.

Many came to view his body. Streets were lined with cloths as his body was ferried, an indication of how much he touched the ordinary citizens.

His admired work ethic and leadership were evident from the depth of people’s grief and sadness.

Suluhu said Magufuli was lucky to hear his praises while he was alive. "He knew how much he was loved and valued."

According to President Suluhu Hassan, Magufuli once said that when he dies, he will be remembered for his deeds.

"We will remember him for generations to come and from all those who will speak of his good deeds."

She could not hold her tears back during the requiem for Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 20, 2021. [Reuters]

"Magufuli loved his job. His passion for development was evident in the fact that he knew all roads by name, length and how much was spent on each project," said President Suluhu Hassan.

"Some say he knew the fish in Tanzania waters,"  added  President Suluhu.

Magufuli was praised as a Pan-Africanist unafraid to push for what was right for his people.

Women Leadership

The newly-sworn president said Magufuli had faith in her and Tanzania's women’s leadership and that it was through him that the country had the first female Vice President and upon his death, the first female President.

"He allowed me to show my strength and that, given the opportunity women can lead," Suluhu said.

She went on: "For six years I was his helper. He entertained no-nonsense, but he was a funny person, who loved jokes, which made working with him even better."

President Suluhu said to Magufuli, 24 hours was not enough.

"There was no day and night. He would always call to find out what was happening and was always as busy as a bee. He wanted to see results and never wanted to hear excuses."

Thew new president mourners that Magufuli constantly reminded his team that his life was a gift to the Tanzania people and therefore he had to work day and night to deliver.

President Suluhu said people often wondered if Magiuli had enough time to rest or for family.

"On our part, we had to match his expectations. We are ready today because he got us ready."

 Suluhu promised Tanzania that she would take over from Magufuli had reached and complete his journey.

For those questioning whether a woman can lead Tanzania, she said she is ready.

"It is easy," to which the crowd roared in encouragement.

Suluhu said death has robbed Tanzania of a strong leader and a patriot who served all.

"In six years he built the local economy and stopped revenue losses.

"He improved projects in line with his vision to have an industrial Tanzania and with policies to match."

Through his efforts, health, education and water sectors were developed.

Catholic Archbishop of Dar es Salaam Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa'ichi spreads incense on the body of late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli during the state funeral at Uhuru Stadium, the venue of the national requiem Mass in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on March 20, 2021. [Reuters]

Suluhu said Magufuli was referred to as a bulldozer because he was unshaken by perceptions, both within and outside the country.

"Today, the rich and poor mourn him."

President for the rich and the poor

He went for rallies, but on worship days he did not miss the church service, said President Suluhu.

She said Magufuli pushed for the rights of the poor and would tell people that when he died  God will ask him what he did for the people who chose him and he needed to have a concrete answer.

Those close to him saw more of his humility in the backdrop of his stern utterances. Magufuli ensured equal rights for, all to access jobs as well as having an enabling environment for small businesses, recalled President Suluhu.

He was not a frequent traveller because he thought it better to spend more time serving his people.

Suluhu said the job Magufuli gave her as his principal assistant was part of his vision. "He saw the future, and prepared for it."

His leadership in SADC, EAC and AU was cited as areas where he pushed for unity and prosperity.

During his tenure, he pushed for South Sudan to join the EAC as the sixth member as well as boost trade ties.

At SADC, Magufuli called for the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe, saying such limitations hurt the whole region.

Magufuli pushed for the use of Kiswahili, especially in SADC countries. 

He led with the notion that Tanzania is bigger than an individual and that when in need, he invited the counsel of previous Tanzania Presidents, said President Suluhu.

 "I ask retired Presidents and previous leaders to also hold my hand. I am ready to work with you to build the Tanzania we will all love."