Fresh twist on Magufuli’s whereabouts as possible power transition looms

IT is highly certain that the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS) has successfully misinformed the media and misled the public about the health and whereabouts of President John Magufuli who has been sick since last week.

SAUTI KUBWA understands that Magufuli has been hospitalised since 3rd March 2021, first at Ikulu then at Mzena State Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Speculations by social media and reports by some international media for the past three days have been indicating that the ailing Magufuli had been hospitalised in Nairobi, Kenya, then airlfted to India. But scores of media critics doubted the credibility of the stories for lack of facts and credible sources.

As the Magufuli saga caught fire – particularly on Wednesday and Thursday – there emerged new unconfirmed reports that he had never left Dar es Salaam, and that he was apparently hospitalised at Mzena State Hospital where he has been undergoing treatment since 7th March 2021. 

On Thursday night, an unspecified confidential report went viral claiming, among other things, that some Indian doctors had been flown in Dar es Salaam to help in the treatment of Magufuli. He is hospitalised at the same hospital where former President Benjamin Mkapa died in July last year.  

The anonymity of the report notwithstanding, this version coincides with a briefing SAUTI KUBWA had received from a government insider three days ago following our report that Magufuli had been secrerly discharged from the hospital. It was the same day he was rumoured to have been admitted to a city hospital in Nairobi.

But one of our sources said: “The Kenya scenario is a hoax. It is a misinformation by TISS meant to fool the public.”

The unspecified report bears similar sentiments saying Tanzania would never consider Kenya as a possible destination for the president’s treatment.

So it goes, quoting an anonymous former presidential advisor: “We would never take a president to Kenya for medical treatment during a trade war… They would get all the information on the president’s condition and leak all the details or use it against you. They would never take him to Kenya – he doesn’t like Kenyans. The intelligence agents managing this don’t like Kenyans – they don’t even share intelligence.”

Surprisingly, an almost similar reason had previously been availed to SAUTI KUBWA in an attempt to explain the possible evacuation of the president from Nairobi to India. The sources had cited political and intelligence concerns.

What many sources unanimously agree on so far is Magufuli COVID-19 condition that exacerbated his existing cardiac complications. Magufuli, who is known to have a pacemaker, was developing signs of heart failure, the report says. 

It claims that very few people know the president’s whereabouts so far and that all information and the management of its flow is in the hands of TISS.

It is understood that vice president Samia Suluhu has been in-charge of the presidency since 6th March when she was hurriedly called in from Zanzibar under tight security. On Tuesday this week she presided over a cabinet meeting for the first time since Magufuli took power in 2015. No mention was made of the president, and no minister enquired about him as the meeting deliberated on the 2021/22 budget discussions.  The facts, reported in SAUTI KUBWA’s earlier story, were confirmed by the report.

It is reported that Magufuli has been on a ventilator for much of this week, and that his family has been kept in the dark about his developments. For the first three days of his illness, attempts were made to treat him at the state house using medics from the Muhimbili National Hospital.

Several ministers who spoke to SAUTI KUBWA until today said they did not have any whereabouts of the president, as they have been consumed in the wind of existing speculations regarding his deteriorating health.  

It is understood that TISS was happy on the way the Nairobi version caught the attention of global media. And they are apparently planning to use this single media flop as evidence that all that has been reported and tweeted about Magufuli is false. 

Some reports said the president was starting to respond positively to medical treatment, and that should everything go well enough, his aides would organise a simple event in which he would be seen in public, albeit briefly, as a way of dispelling the speculations about his ill health – and to show the people that he was not flown to India. 

 Some officials are already working on a media strategy that includes lobbying some senior editors and PR gurus to help them influence the local media in the propaganda against social media activists and international media, taking advantage of some flaws in previous reports.

Unfortunately, due to Tanzania’s hostile media environment, the local media have distanced themselves from investigating or covering anything on Magufuli’s illness. Their possible entry into this trending story is expected to be when the government makes its first public reaction.

But some sources are not optimistic about Magufuli’s recovery. One reliable source said the president was too critical to recuperate, and that even if he did, he would never be able to run the government. The same feeling surfaces in the unspecified report.

It says: “Multiple sources within the security services and cabinet that we spoke to assessed that the most likely scenario is now a transition of power. In the event that the president makes a recovery, his frail health and pre-existing heart condition make it very unlikely that he will be able to resume his presidential responsibilities for an extended period.”

In that case, a power transition – that would lead to the swearing in of Suluhu as president – would be considered. As per constitution, it is the vice president’s duty to engage the ruling party in search of her replacement.

It is likely that even this report, marked private and confidential, is a piece work of TISS in their attempt to misinform and cause further confusion on the matter. It bears a foreign mission briefing tone.

SAUTI KUBWA has been seeking comment from the government spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas. He never responds to calls or texts by our reporters.