The first vice president of Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island, Seif Sharif Hamad, died Wednesday morning, weeks after being hospitalized with COVID-19.
No official reason has been given for the death of Seif Sharif Hamad, popularly known as Maalim Seif, at the age of 77.
He was the most prominent politician in Tanzania to have openly declared that he had the virus.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli has called for prayers and herbal remedies to counter it.
Mr Hamad was a senior member of the opposition ACT Wazalendo party, which has been critical of the government’s policy on Covid.
Announcing the death Wednesday, Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi, declared seven days of a national mourning and said flags will be flown at half-staff.
On a Twitter post, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli sent his condolences “I have received with profound shock the news of the death of Hon. Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, the first vice president of Zanzibar,” he tweeted.
He did not mention a cause of death
Meanwhile, Tanzania’s government insists there are no cases of COVID-19 in the country, but residents and doctors point to a growing number of illnesses and deaths. Opposition politicians say the government’s stance is endangering lives.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago, Tanzania’s government has refused to admit the presence of the coronavirus in the country.
Instead, the country’s president John Magufuli has portrayed the pandemic as an economic opportunity.
This is our time as Tanzanians, as there is no COVID-19, Magufuli said. He added that Tanzanians should use the opportunity to grow many crops so that for countries that will experience famine, we will set the prices of the products and sell to them.
Recently, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania warned that COVID-19 cases have risen considerably in the country since January.