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Covid19 in Tanzania: Faith and Secular Institutions


The media have been quick to trumpet anything President Magufuli of Tanzania says about faith, or the power of prayer, in defeating Covid19. He has refused to address the epidemic in the manner prescribed by the WHO and numerous ‘experts’. Magufuli is anxious to keep things ticking over, as a developing country must.

Specifically, the president had no wish to risk the kind of economic meltdown or civil unrest that some developing countries are now experiencing. The WHO (Guardian, BBC, NY Times, etc.) had all the answers about Covid19, or so they would have us believe. But they are not responsible for the security and welfare of people who live in poor countries. 

Mainstream stories about Tanzania have come from social media, opposition politicians, NGOs and other parties whose views may not be entirely impartial. No one would claim President Magufuli has only ever made sound decisions during his five-year tenure. But standing up to international institutions, foreign donors and the media is a courageous move, one that most leaders will never make. 

Magufuli can be described as having done the opposite of what most countries have done. Or he can be described as having made the right decisions for a country where the majority depend on the informal economy for their livelihoods. Today’s journey, work, purchases and sales pay for today’s meals. Few pathogens can make staying at home, perhaps indefinitely, the better decision. 

Magufuli is frank in his belief that God will keep Tanzania safe. People want to go about their daily tasks in relative safety and security. Some may have little. But no one needs a lockdown to remind them how close they are to having less. Mafuguli refuses to accept the orthodoxy of institutions urging everyone to cower in their homes, indefinitely. This is far from blind faith.

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