The whereabouts of President John Magufuli have been cluttered with rumor after the Tanzanian leader was last seen 17 days ago.

In power since 2015 and nicknamed “The Bulldozer”, Magufuli was last seen on February 27 looking his normal robust self during a ceremony at State House in Dar-es-Salaam.

Unconfirmed sources have since speculated that Magafuli is currently in India receiving medical treatment for COVID-19 and is in a serious condition.

Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper cited unidentified political and diplomatic sources on Wednesday saying that an African leader, which it did not name, was being treated for COVID-19 on a ventilator at a Nairobi hospital.

Magufuli has played down the threat from COVID-19, saying God and remedies such as steam inhalation would protect Tanzanians. He has mocked coronavirus tests, denounced vaccines as part of a Western conspiracy to take Africa’s wealth, and opposed mask-wearing and social distancing.

“His COVID denialism in tatters, his prayer-over-science folly has turned into a deadly boomerang,” Lissu tweeted in the early hours of Thursday.

According to Tanzania’s constitution, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan would take over for the rest of the five-year term if the president is unable to discharge duties.

World Health Organization’s Africa director, Matshidiso Moeti, told a news conference on Thursday that she had no direct information on Magufuli’s health and it would be unwise to speculate. She noted that Tanzania now recognised the danger of COVID-19 following two senior officials’ death and said more data would be welcome.

More as this story develops.

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