At least one person has been arrested by Tanzanian police for circulating posts that said President John Magufuli is in ill health.
The president has not been seen for two weeks, sparking rumours the coronavirus sceptic leader is ill with Covid-19 or unwell and incapacitated.
At least one man was arrested for allegedly spreading false reports that Magufuli was seriously ill in the Kinondoni area of Dar es Salaam, Regional Police Commissioner for Kinondoni Ramadhani Kingai said at a press conference Saturday.
“There are a lot more who have been spreading false statements. We will arrest them all,” Kingai said.
Prime Minister Hassan Majaliwa on Friday denied reports Magufuli is ill and said he is « fit and working hard as usual. »
“The president has a lot to do,” he said, adding that the president had delegated some duties to his aides.
Tanzania’s minister of constitutional and legal affairs threatened to prosecute anyone who relayed « inane » rumors about the president’s health but stopped short of answering questions about his condition.
Human rights groups say the cybercrime law is one of several that Magufuli’s government uses to suppress freedom of expression.
‘Eradicating coronavirus with prayer’
Magufuli is one of Africa’s most prominent Covid-19 sceptics. Last year he said the disease had been eradicated from Tanzania by three days of national prayer. He cast doubt on tests to determine covid-19 discouraged Tanzanians from wearing masks, keeping a distance from others, and the use of vaccines to combat the disease.
Magufuli’s absence is unusual as he is known for frequent public speeches and appearances on state television several times a week.
Opposition politicians raised questions about the president’s health after at least one official close to him died recently.
Magufuli was last seen in public on Feb. 27 at the swearing-in ceremony of his chief of staff.
Exiled opposition leader Tundu Lissu, who lost the October presidential election to Magufuli, claimed in a series of tweets last week that the president had been flown to India in critical condition after first being taken to neighboring Kenya for COVID-19 treatment.