John Magufuli Biography

(The Fifth President of Tanzania)

Birthday: October 29, 1959 (Scorpio)

Born In: Chato, Tanzania

John Magufuli served as Tanzania’s fifth president, from November 2015 till his death in March 2021. Born into poverty, he carved his identity through academics before he stepped into politics. Initially a math and chemistry teacher and chemist, he joined the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party later. Before assuming the presidency of his country, he had served as the MP from Biharamulo East and Chato and had also held the ministries of Lands and Human Settlements, Livestock and Fisheries Development, and Works, Transport and Communications. Though he was initially hailed for cracking down on corruption and investing heavily in Tanzania’s infrastructure, he was later criticized for curbing dissent and launching attacks on his critics and political rivals. He also apparently curbed freedom of speech in his country and introduced regulations against the LGBT community. A prominent COVID denier, he was said to have died of the virus, though the government claimed he had died due to heart disease.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: John Pombe Joseph Magufuli

Died At Age: 61


Spouse/Ex-: Janet Magufuli (m. ?–2021)

children: Jessica Magufuli, Joseph Magufuli

Born Country: Tanzania

Presidents Male Leaders

Died on: March 17, 2021

place of death: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Notable Alumni: University Of Dar Es Salaam

More Facts

education: University Of Dar Es Salaam, Lake Secondary School, Mkwawa Secondary School

Early Life & Education

John Magufuli was born John Pombe Magufuli, on October 29, 1959, in the rural region of Chato, in north-western Tanzania (Tanganyika back then), on the banks of Lake Victoria. His father was a subsistence farmer.

Born into povery, he initially oversaw his father’s cattle and sold milk and fish. He lived in a thatched house. Magufuli was a good student and viewed academics as a path out of poverty.

From 1967 to 1974, he attended the Chato Primary School. From 1975 to 1977, he studied at the Katoke Seminary in Biharamulo and the joined the Lake Secondary School in 1977, eventually graduating in 1978.

In 1979, he joined Mkwawa High School. He graduated in 1981 and joined Mkwawa College of Education (under the University of Dar es Salaam), eventually earning a Diploma in Education Science and majoring in Math, Chemistry, and Education in 1988.

In 2009, he was awarded a doctorate in chemistry by the University of Dar es Salaam. Much later, in 2019, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Dodoma.

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Early Career

Between 1982 and 1983, John Magufuli served as a teacher at the Sengerema Secondary School, where he taught math and chemistry. Before venturing into full-time politics, he also worked as an industrial chemist with a farmers’ cooperative union named The Nyanza Cooperative Union Limited, from 1989 to 1995.

Political Career & Presidency

In 1995, John Magufuli stepped into politics as an elected Chama Cha Mapinduzi party MP of the Chato district. He continued to represent Biharamulo East and Chato in the parliament till July 2015.

During his first term as an MP, Magufuli was appointed Deputy Minister for Works. In the 2000 election, he retained his seat and was promoted to a full cabinet minister for Works and continued in the post till 2005.

He served as Tanzania’s Minister of Lands and Human Settlements from January 2006 to February 2008. From February 2008 to November 2010, he was the country’s Minister of Livestock and Fisheries Development. He was then re-elected as the country’s Minister of Works, Transport and Communications in November 2010 and continued in the post till November 2015.

On his 56th birthday in 2015, he was declared the winner of the Tanzanian presidential elections held on October 25, 2015. He took over as the fifth president of Tanzania on November 5, 2015. He won a second five-year term as the country’s president in the 2020 elections, which, his critics claimed, were neither free nor fair.

He was initially known for his tough attitude against corruption. He, apparently, appeared unannounced at the Ministry of Finance offices on his first day as the president, just to see how many officials had reported to work on time. He, reportedly, banned unnecessary trips of government officials, too.

He also canceled government-sponsored Independence Day celebrations and declared that the funds thus saved would be diverted to improve roads and infrastructure in Dar es Salaam. Magufuli fired quite a few top government officials for corrupt practices, too.

Over the years, he went on long road trips with multiple stops that enabled him to speak with the common public. These trips were often broadcast live on TV, and he would often be surrounded by crowds.

He also invested in several developmental projects, such as a bus network in Dar es Salaam, a major standard-gauge railway system to connect Tanzania and its neighboring countries, and a few highways. He also increased the production of electricity in his country.

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Soon, he gained the nickname The Bulldozer for his roadworks projects and his efforts to reduce government spending and corruption. He was also seen as an able leader of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, which was on the verge of decline due to internal corruption.

However, his stern action against corruption and his efforts to boost the development and economy of his nation were marred by allegations of curtailing freedom of speech. His main political opponent, Tundu Lissu, apparently had to relocate to Belgium to save his life, after Magufuli was elected. Lissu also claimed that he was shot at multiple times back in 2017, for criticizing the president.

In early 2016, Magufuli banned live broadcasts of parliamentary debates which featured the opposition criticizing the government. In July the same year, he banned all political rallies in the country.

He was also harsh with the country’s LBGT community. He prevented aid agencies from supporting same-sex communities to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some of his laws were criticized by Amnesty International for stifling freedom of speech and expression in Tanzania. His reign also saw online activism being declared a criminal offense.

In the 2020 elections, Magufuli launched attacks on his main opponent, Lissu. He, reportedly, not only interfered with Lissu’s campaign, but also bombed his party offices and disqualified several parliamentary candidates. A night before the election, government security forces shot down 11 people for protesting against alleged election fraud.

However, Magufuli’s worst form of governance was showcased in the manner in which he handled COVID-19. A staunch Catholic, Magufuli declared the COVID-19 virus a “devil” and called on to people to visit churches and mosques to pray. In April 2020, Tanzania stopped revealing its actual COVID-19 caseload to the international community.

Surprisingly, in June 2020, he declared that Tanzania had eradicated COVID-19 after three days of national prayer. He also spoke against standard COVID-19 protocol, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, and questioned the efficiency of COVID-19 vaccines. Instead, he stated herbs and exercise would cure COVID-19. He thus became one of Africa’s most prominent COVID-19 deniers.

Personal Life

John Magufuli was married to Tanzanian educator Janeth Magufuli and had reportedly fathered seven children with her. Janeth had been a primary school teacher for over two decades, before serving as the fifth First Lady of Tanzania from November 2015 till her husband Magufuli’s death in March 2021.


John Magufuli suddenly went missing from public life since February 27, 2021. Rumors stated that he may have contracted COVID-19.

On March 12 that year, government officials denied that he was ill. Soon, the Tanzanian vice president, Samia Suluhu, urged people not to believe in rumors.

However, on March 17, 2021, Suluhu declared on state broadcaster TBC that Magufuli had passed away at Dar es Salaam’s Mzena Hospital due to a heart ailment. Nevertheless, there were speculations regarding his cause of death.

Magufuli was 61 at the time of his death. He was also the first and only Tanzanian president to die in office. Following his death, 14 days of mourning was announced in the country, during which all Tanzanian flags flew at half-staff.

See the events in life of John Magufuli in Chronological Order

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