Authorities in Tanzania have confirmed arresting two people for reporting on social media that President John Pombe Magufuli is battling Covid-19.
The two are Peter Pius Silayo, 30, a resident of Tegeta Dar es Salaam and 36-year-old Melchiory Prosper Shayo who hails from Rombo District.
Acting Kilimanjaro Regional Police Commander (RPC) Ronald Makona told members of the press on Monday, March 15, that the two, who are still in police custody, were arrested on different dates for spreading rumours that the President had been taken ill.
The police boss said the suspects will be arraigned once investigations are complete.
He threatened legal action against anyone found “misinforming” the public about the Head of State’s health.
“Hatua kali za kisheria zitachukuliwa kwa mtu yeyote atakaebainika ametoa au amesambaza taarifa za kupotosha umma na kusababisha taharuki kwa jamii, ” the police boss said.
The arrest comes just days after Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa refuted claims that Magufuli had been flown to Nairobi for Covid-19 treatment with the opposition in the country mounting pressure on the government to come clean on the President’s whereabouts.
Magufuli, who is on record denying the existence of Coronavirus in the entire East African country, has not been seen in public since February 27 when he swore in Dr Bashiru Ali at the Dar es Salaam State House, replacing John Kijazi, who died of a heart attack.
“Tanzanians should be at peace. Your president is around, healthy, working hard,” he said in a speech after Friday prayers in the southern Njobe region.
“To spread rumours that he is sick is just an outcome of hate.”
Recently, Magufuli discouraged Tanzanians from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Western countries.
Magufuli claimed that Tanzanians who had been vaccinated against Covid-19 in other countries “brought a strange variant” back home.
Tundu Lissu, who unsuccessfully ran against Magufuli in the October 2020 presidential election, was among the first leaders in Tanzania to raise questions on the President’s whereabouts.
“The president’s well-being is a matter of grave public concern,” Lissu said in a tweet Tuesday. He cited public announcements of previous Tanzanian leaders’ illnesses, before asking: “What’s it with Magufuli that we don’t deserve to know?”