Tanzania's former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi dies aged 98

Former President of Tanzania, Ali Hassan Mwinyi

What you need to know:

  • Mwinyi will be laid to rest on March 2; his final resting place is yet to be confirmed.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi died at the age of 98 on February 29, 2024, while receiving treatment for lung cancer at Mzena Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

The death of the former Head of State was announced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan on national television.

In a televised speech, the president announced the passing of Tanzania's second president, who was a year and three months shy of marking a century on earth.

Mwinyi will be laid to rest on March 2 in Zanzibar.

On February 2, he was hospitalized for a chest illness, with his family asking for privacy during the time he was receiving treatment.

President Hassan revealed that Mwinyi had been receiving treatment in London, UK, since November last year before he was taken back home and admitted to Mzena Hospital, where he met his death.

“On behalf of the government of the United Republic of Tanzania, I extend my condolences to the family, relatives, friends, and all Tanzanians for this great loss to the nation,” President Hassan said.

Following the death, President Hassan declared seven days of national mourning in honour of the former leader and icon.

According to President Hassan, the national flags will fly at half-mast throughout Tanzania for the duration of the seven-day mourning period.

On February 2 he was hospitalized for a chest illness, with his family asking privacy during the time he was receiving treatment.

With his death, Jakaya Kikwete is the only surviving Tanzanian former president.

Mr. Mwinyi in an undated photo. He was a schoolteacher before joining the government and holding a series of posts, culminating in the presidency. PHOTO | GETTYIMAGES

Benjamin Mkapa, who served as the fourth president from 1995 to 2005, died on July 24, 2020 at the age of 81.

Mkapa, was remembered of laeding several regional peace mediation efforts in office and afterwards.

His successor, John Pombe Magufuli, was the fifth president of Tanzania, serving from 2015 until his death on March 17, 2021.

Ali Hassan Mwinyi who was commonly known as Mzee Rukhsa” due to his liberal economic approach, was born on May 8, 1925, in the Coast Region.

Mwinyi served as the second president of the United Republic of Tanzania from 1985- 1995.

He succeeded the founding president, Julius Nyerere.

Like his predecessor, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Mwinyi was also a teacher before going into politics.

Mr. Mwinyi, center, posed in 1985 with Tanzania’s departing president, Julius Nyerere, left, and Idris Abdul Wakil, who took over as president of Zanzibar. Tanzania was formed by the merger of Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964. PHOTO | GETTY IMAGES

He is the only president who served in both Zanzibar (1984-1985) and Mainland Tanzania (1985-1995).

His previous posts include Tanzania's ambassador to Egypt, home affairs minister, and vice president.

Economic and political transformation

When he entered office, Tanzania was experiencing a deep recession brought about by various factors, including the rise of oil prices in 1973, drought in 1975, the collapse of the East African Community (EAC), the Kagera war, and tough conditionalities imposed by development partners and international financial institutions.

Mwinyi embarked on an economic revival strategy underscored by liberalisation of both economic and political activities, earning him the nickname ‘Mzee Rukhsa’” which literally means “Mr Permission.”

During his tenure (1985–95), economic growth averaged four percent.

Read: Why Mwinyi embarked on economic reform
It was during his tenure that Tanzania held its first multi-party General Election in 1995.

In 2021, Mwinyi authored a memoir named Mzee Rukhsa: Safari ya Maisha Yangu’ (Mzee Rukhsa: The Journey of My Life).

On his 96th birthday, he was gifted a new vehicle by President Hassan.

Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road, one of the major roads in Dar es Salaam, was named after him.

Ali Hassan Mwinyi Road in Dar es Salaam

After retirement, Mzee Mwinyi has stayed out of the limelight.

However, he remained an enthusiast of physical exercise, participating in regular mini-marathons and walk events.