What is happening in Tanzania regarding COVID19 would be fodder for a Kafka-esque novel, had it not been that it is very tragic! Here is some context. Late yesterday the UK banned entry to travelers from Tanzania and D.R.C. in an attempt to stop the spread of the South Africa variant of COVID-19 Similar bans were imposed a few weeks ago on South Africa and its neighbors. This strain warrants special measures because it is reported to be 50% more transmissible than earlier ones Now we have confirmation that not only is there COVID-19 in Tanzania, something that our government has been denying for several months now, but that a highly infectious strain is also present.
The government of Tanzania stopped publishing data on COVID-19 cases and deaths on May 8th 2020, a few days after President John Magufuli announced that test kits were faulty because they had tested positive on samples of sheep and goat meat and on pawpaw. Then, a month later in June, he declared the country free of coronavirus thanks to prayers. Essentially, unlike other responsible governments that are trying to come up and implement various strategies to protect their citizens (e.g. the UK government and this ban), Magufuli handed over this responsibility to God.
Since then, our government has pursued an active strategy of hiding the existence of the pandemic in the country as well as threatening and pursuing those who dare contradict the “official stand”. For example, several medical staff confided to me that only negative COVID-19 test results are issued, thus people only suspect that they have tested positive when they do not receive any result at all. Also hospitals and clinics never refer to COVID-19 or Coronavirus on examination, admission and death forms, people suffer from and succumb to “acute pneumonia” and the like or to underlying conditions like hypertension.
In addition to this, the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has been sending out public warnings that anyone “spreading information” about COVID-19 that may cause panic will be dealt with fully under the law. The punishment being imprisonment and/or a fine. Given the official stand of the state that there is no COVID-19 in Tanzania, what constitutes an offence in this context is obvious. In another example, only two days ago a school in Moshi had announced that it is taking precautionary measuresafter confirming a COVID-19 case among students and a second student displayed symptoms. Yesterday, according to social media reports, after being threatened by The Mayor of Moshi, the Director of the school apologized “for mis-communicating” and rescinded planned measures. And because of this stand, and related public misinformation and threats, hardly anyone takes any precautionary measure in Tanzania.
It is one thing to have a government that does not have an “adequate response” to COVID-19 and another to have one that is actively engaged in denying and covering up its existence. The government of Tanzania, prompted by Denier-in-Chief Magufuli, is not only failing to protect its people from COVID-19, but is also actively denying them the opportunity to protect themselves. Were they to receive accurate information, they could at least try to protect themselves by taking simple precautionary measures like wearing masks, washing their hands, and practicing social distancing; at no cost to the state. Instead, people who should not get sick are getting sick and people who should not die are dying.
Let me be clear, Magufuli declared Tanzania COVID-19 free thanks to the power of prayer, to rid himself of the responsibility of having to do something. And an irresponsible, criminally negligent government has done everything to uphold this ridiculous position. And people who should not die are dying. This calls for serious consideration whether it meets the threshold of genocide!
Thus, I hereby call on all the decent, reasonable, responsible, God-fearing citizens and governments of the world to help stop this madness by applying all the pressure they can muster on the government of Tanzania and its COVID-19 denying head. As a minimum, please ensure that your diplomats in Tanzania follow basic safety protocols at all public functions, and thereby lead by example.
Unlike UK High Commissioner David Concar, who recently placated Denier-in-Chief Magufuli by not wearing a mask at an official event, while being well-aware that the situation in Tanzania is at least as bad as in the UK, where full lock-down measures are in place. And please deny the government of Tanzania aid and loans until they start acting responsibly, unlike the European Union Office in Dar es Salaam, that released 27 million Euros in COVID19 relief fund to a government that denies the existence of the disease in the country.