Tanzania’s former Chief of Defense Forces reignites controversies surrounding President Magufuli’s death three years on

TANZANIA’s former Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) General Venance Mabeyo has reignited fresh debates over controversies surrounding the death of the country’s 5th President John Pombe Magufuli three years on.

In a week that marked the three-year anniversary, Majorr Mabeyo made controversial statements in an interview with state-owned Daily News, hinting on abborted sabotage and conspiracy associated with power transition even before the death was announced to the public.

But if there is one thing that came out of the former CDF’s utterances, is the revelation of sensitive information regarding the secrecy of Magufuli’s final days in a hospital bed, which neither the first lady, nor the vice president nor the prime minister was aware of.

Surprisingly, the vice president was the last senior official to be informed of the president’s death. What is worse, the people who had presided over this secrecy were not part of a medical team. Rather, the CDF mentions three people – himself as CDF, the Director General of Intelligence Services (DGIS), and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) – who controlled all information about the president’s illness.

For some reason, he attempts to exonerate the then Chief Secretary  (State House) Dr. Bashiru Ally, who had been Magufuli’s last appointment sworn in on 27th February 2023, the last day he was seen in public. But word has it that Dr. Ally was running the show in the absence of the president and the vice president.

This explains why the vice president was assigned to a tour of Tanga region and the prime minister was away in Dodoma during the same period  – away from Dar es Salaam where the president had been hospitalised. The top officials’ regional tours took place within the same period when it was being roumered that the president had kicked the bucket.

Even when it was time to break the news, the prime minister, farther away in Dodoma, knew and arrived in Dar es Salaam first before the vice president who was nearer in Tanga.

The then chief secreatry, a former university lecturer and secretary general for the ruling party, CCM, was reported to  have been allegedly involved in proposing a “constitutional coup” that would have denied the vice president a chance to succeed the president, on the grounds that the country was not ready for a female president. But General Mabeyo vehemently opposed the move, insisting that the constitution should be honoured, or else the army would take action to fill the  void.

That was when it was decided to inform the vice president, and she hurriedly announced the death from Tanga city. It partly explains why Dr. Ally was the first person to be fired from state house within days of vice president Samia being sworn in as president.

And it explains President Samia’s order of forensic audit of the Bank of Tanzania transactions during the same period. Even after the audit, the public was kept in the dark about the findings. SAUTI KUBWA is aware that some top government officials were implicated.

But whether President Magufuli breathed his last on 17th March 2021 as announced by the government remains unknown because some intelligence sources had previously provided a narrative that he had passed away on 12th March 2021. Former intelligence officer Evarist Chahali had announced the death through a podcast five days before the government followed suit with a live announcement on 17th March 2021.

As for the cause of the president’s death, official government reports had cited cardiac-related complications, as other sources had mentioned Covid-19, which was later confirmed by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, in an interview with foreign media.

What raises more questions than answers is why the president’s illness was made a security matter instead of a medical situation handled by medical experts; and why the entire situation was hidden from the family and the president’s assistants.

Following the former CDF’s interview, public discussions and debates are rife online as critics probe into General Mabeyo’s half-baked revelation and its rationale. While some local and international media have analysed the debates,  it is worth revisiting some prominent discussions involved, for a first-hand feeling, in the links below.

1. General Venance Mabeyo’s interview

2. SK Media’s video analysis in response of Mabeyo’s interview

3. Bishop Benson Bagonza comments through his Facebook account