Mabeyo recalls JPM’s last hours

DAR ES SALAAM: THE retired Chief of Defence Force (CDF) of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF), General Venance Mabeyo, has shared the untold story of the late Dr John Magufuli’s last days at Mzena Hospital.

The late Magufuli died from heart complications while in office at the age of 61 on March 17, 2021. He was buried in his ancestral home of Chato District on March 26, 2021.

On March 14th of this year, General Mabeyo spared his time for an exclusive interview with the ‘Daily News’ at his residence in Msasani Beach, Dar es Salaam, aiming to revisit and discuss various issues.

The ‘Daily News’ asked the former CDF what really happened during the last hours before the shocking death of the late President Dr Magufuli? In his response, General Mabeyo (rtd) says; “First of all, the late Dr Magufuli began his treatment at the Muhimbili National Hospital’s Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI).

Due to the high number of people at the hospital, we decided to transfer him to Mzena Hospital, where there was more privacy and calmness.

During his illness, we, as the defence and security organs and I, as the Chairperson of the organs, were fully engaged in monitoring the progress of our president.

We visited him every morning and evening. General Mabeyo continues saying; “At Mzena Hospital, the situation was calm with no congestion. We limited the number of visitors to give him a better chance at treatment.

One day before his death, I believe Dr Magufuli had a premonition that his last days were near. His condition deteriorated significantly and he was aware of it. He called me and said, ‘CDF, come… I know I will not make it.”

What were Dr Magufuli’s last words?

General Mabeyo says, the late Dr Magufuli requested to be taken back home. He recalls their conversation; “Order the doctors to send me back home,” demanded Magufuli.

I replied, “Your Excellency, I don’t have that authority; the health issue is beyond the CDF. I insisted that he was in the right place with all the doctors around. One of the top doctors providing care to the Head of State was Professor Mohamed Janabi, who was present throughout. I urged him that he should continue receiving treatment at the facility.

Dr Magufuli instructed me to call his Parish Priest, Father Alister Makubi, from Saint Peter’s Church, Osterbay, as well as Polycarp Cardinal Pengo of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam.

In the morning, I contacted Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, who came alongside Father Makubi, and together they held a special prayer for him. As per Roman Catholic’s beliefs, they performed the anointing of the sick sacrament. After the prayers, we left him to continue treatment.

Around 2:00 pm, the hospital called me to inform me that the president’s condition was worsening.

Upon arrival with other security chiefs, including the Director General of Intelligence and Security Services (DGIS) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), we found Dr Magufuli in critical condition. We stayed by his side, and more doctors were called in. At approximately 6:30 pm, Dr Magufuli passed away.

How they communicated the shocking information?

General Mabeyo (rtd) says; ‘We began to plan how to share this information, including who to inform first.

At the time, the Vice-President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan was in Tanga, and the Prime Minister, (Kassim Majaliwa), and the Chief Secretary, (Dr Bashiru Ally), were also not in Dar es Salaam.

We decided to contact the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary without revealing the news of the death.

They arrived promptly, and I, as the CDF and Chairperson of the Defence and Security Organs, informed them of the president’s passing. We deliberated on who should announce the news to the citizens, but according to the country’s constitution, only the Vice-President can officially declare the death of the Head of State.

However, since the Vice-President was in Tanga, we used alternative means to inform her. Before making the announcement, we also notified the late president’s family, including his wife, Ms Janet, who was at the State House. It was crucial for the family to be informed before the news was shared with the media.

Therefore, the announcement of his death was made public at 11:00 pm by Vice-President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, although the death occurred at 6:30 pm.

Following the announcement, funeral arrangements were made, and a funeral committee was established, led by the Prime Minister, Mr Majaliwa.

What occurred ahead of the swearing-in of the new president?

There was some debate about whether the new president should be sworn in before or after the burial of the departed. We agreed that it was more appropriate for dignitaries from other countries, including foreign presidents, to be welcomed by the new president.

This discussion led to the delay in Vice-President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan being sworn in as president until March 19, 2021, as per the constitution, which requires the vice-president to be sworn in within 24 hours of the serving president’s death.

How were the preparations for the swearing-in ceremony?

There was a debate about how the event should be conducted. Should it be a formal swearing-in ceremony or just a brief event? I suggested that a parade should be held, and the Commander in Chief’s flag should be raised, accompanied by a parade. After some tension, we agreed on the swearing-in ceremony.

I argued that if the president were not sworn in through the formal procedure, the army would not recognise her. The soldiers rehearsed for three hours and were ready for the swearingin ceremony. The president’s flag was hoisted, symbolising the Commander in Chief. The transition was smooth.

Brief history of former CDF

General Mabeyo assumed the role of the country’s CDF in 2017 after being appointed by then-President Dr Magufuli.

He succeeded General Davis Mwamunyange. Before becoming CDF, General Mabeyo served as the TPDF’s Chief of Staff. The current TPDF’s Chief of Defence Force is General Jacob Mkunda, who assumed the position after General Mabeyo’s retirement.

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