VIDEO: Chaos as mourners swamp stadium to bid Magufuli farewell

Sunday March 21 2021
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By Alfred Zacharia

Dar es Salaam. First Aid providers and security personnel had a hectic day on Sunday, March 21, 2021 when thousands of people thronged Uhuru Stadium in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam to pay their last respects to the body of former President John Pombe Magufuli.

 Dr Magufuli died of heart complications at Mzena Hospital in the city on March 17, and is expected to be buried on Friday, March 26 in his hometown of Chato in Geita Region.

Sunday was the second and final day for Dar es Salaam residents to pay their last respects to Tanzania’s fifth president, who was first elected in 2015 before winning another term in the October 28, 2020 General Election, but ended up serving only four months of his second and final five-year term.  Magufuli is also the first Tanzanian president to have died in office.

In contrast to the first day on Saturday, there were chaotic scenes on Sunday when tens of thousands of people from all walks of life turned up to bid farewell to the man who was Tanzania’s head of state for nearly five and a half years.

At some point, security officers had to prevent mourners from entering the stadium using unofficial entrance points.

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Meanwhile, Tanzania Red Cross Society personnel had a busy time attending to mourners who fainted after filing past Magufuli’s body.

Mourners started arriving at the stadium early in the morning, and the 23,000-seater area was filled to capacity by 9.30am, prompting some of those who could not get in to try to find their way into the venue using unofficial entrance points.

It was at that point that security personnel directed that no one should be allowed in to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

“The stadium is overwhelmed at the moment. Don’t let anyone enter until the situation improves,” said the mistress of ceremony over the public address system.

Despite the announcement, dozens of people could be seen forcing their way in, while others scaled the perimeter wall around the stadium. Initial attempts to stop them were, at best, half-hearted.

Sensing danger, security personnel resorted to force to keep out people, mostly youths, who were jumping over the wall and dashing to join queues of mourners filing past the body.

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Tanzania People's Defence Force (TPDF) puts the national flag over the coffin of fifth Tanzanian president John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam on March 20, 2021.

But Temeke District Commissioner Godwin Gondwe asked the officers to desist from using excessive force to control the unruly crowd.

“These are our people, and they are here to mourn and bid their leader farewell. Give proper instructions to those who are in the wrong place, but make sure everyone gets the chance to pay their last respects,” he said.

Mr Gondwe pleaded with mourners to remain calm, and assured them that they would all have an opportunity to pay their last respects.

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Personnel of The Tanzania People's Defence Force (TPDF) parade with a portrait of the fifth Tanzanian president John Magufuli during the national funeral at Uhuru Stadium in Dar es Salaam.

“Thank you for coming to say farewell to our father. I assure you that you will all have a chance to pay your last respects, but you need to follow the proper procedure. Everyone here will see him.  We have to make sure that nobody gets hurt. ”

Mr Gondwe directed the Temeke regional police commander to send more officers to the stadium to ensure that the exercise was conducted smoothly.

Members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Force assisted mourners, including children and people with disabilities, to pay their last respects.