We may be witnessing one of the most successful attempts at social control by mass brainwashing in human history. Tanzania’s President John Magufuli may, in fact, be pulling a ‘Donald Trump’ recovering from covid, but his government is using this to brain control its citizens.
The 61-year old may, in fact, be getting better in an undisclosed hospital in India. But the myth that he has never been sick and has not left the country is being embraced and disseminated by millions of Tanzanians. This is more than a “Trump.” It’s social control the likes of which the world has rarely seen.
Magufuli is in that small, exclusive club of bully covid-denier Heads-of-State, the majority of whom got very sick with Covid. But unlike Trump or Johnson, his sickness is being aggressively denied. His very unusual length of absence from the public arena that has caused such alarm in neighboring countries, seems but another government step in completely controlling the minds of Tanzanians.
According to the BBC the last time Magufuli was seen in public was two weeks ago. The last time he held a public event was February 27. The last three Sundays were the first this year that press were not encouraged to take photographs of him praying in the pews.
All this is remarkable of a man who like the others in his club of world leader-deniers loves the limelight. Not a day normally passed in Tanzania where his face and words didn’t dominate the state-controlled media.
The terrible extent of Tanzania’s true virus pandemic has been widely reported by all sorts of news sources. The BBC in particular has revealed mass night-time funerals and secret cemeteries along with verifications of lots of government officials who have official died of “pneumonia.”
After the Vice President of Zanzibar officially died of covid in the hospital, one of Magufuli’s top aides went MIA until Magufuli himself delivered the eulogy at that aide’s funeral. Shortly thereafter Magufuli disappeared from public view.
It’s understandable this evokes the same kind of speculation that occurs in North Korea or Venezuela when the top dog goes missing.
But in this case the dynamic freedom that exists in Kenya and India popped the lid last mid-week when details of Magufuli’s medivacing out of the country got so specific that his specific whereabouts in Kenya’s Nairobi National Hospital was published.
Multiple reports then circulated that he was transferred to India in a coma at the end of last week.
Immediately thereafter Tanzanian officials altered their stiff denials that Covid was ravaging the country. The Minister of Health encouraged masking then WHO announced that the Tanzanian government had decided to start resupplying it with health statistics that was aborted in May.
Other government officials avoided the press and raced in dark limos from place to place. The suggestion then was that Magufuli was dying.
But then a disgruntled local Tanzanian reporter circulated on public media that Magufuli was not airlifted out of the country but had died in Tanzania. It was the only such “report” and differed substantially from the consensus of other reports that at the time he was airlifted out of the country to India for treatment. So this one seemed unlikely.
Immediately thereafter the government changed its attitude, again. No longer avoiding the question, “Where is Magufuli,” officials began suddenly to aggressively maintain that Magufuli was well and working hard.
This suggests the government will rely on the truth that Magufuli didn’t die in Tanzania as a way to suppress the slight more subtle truth that he’s sick. It seems to me it also suggests that Magufuli is recovering.
Despite his co-morbidities – he has a heart ailment that he’s been treating for years – Magufuli is a young 61-year old active politician who until now seemed fit and energetic.
Today police officials in several different parts of the country started arresting people for spreading “rumors” of Magufuli’s and other officials’ illnesses.
The publicized arrests seem to be doing the trick. Once one of the most outspoken of local social media in Tanzania, JamiiForums, has either gone silent or restricted posts to goofy brain teasers and nonsensical jokes.
I don’t think the government would dare to pursue this very public avenue of repression if it believed Magufuli wasn’t going to return. I think that top government officials – initially coy or allusive – are now certain the leader will get better.
But if so, what about the people of Tanzania? Are they on the mend? Or on the ropes for losing their last figments of reasoning?