Mourners line Tanzania streets at ex-President Magufuli's funeral

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Thousands of mourners have been filing past the coffin of Tanzania's ex-President John Magufuli, who died on Wednesday aged 61.

His coffin, draped in the national flag, is lying in state at the Uhuru stadium in the main city Dar es Salaam.

Opposition politicians say that Magufuli contracted Covid-19, but this has not been confirmed.

He was a Covid sceptic who at times denied the virus had affected Tanzania.

Civilians mourn late Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli during the state funeral at Uhuru stadium, the venue of the national requiem Mass in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania March 20, 2021
A requiem mass has been held for the late president

Magufuli's coffin was brought to the stadium on Saturday in a procession that was led by his successor, Samia Suluhu Hassan.

It will be taken to several different locations for public viewing before his burial in his hometown of Chato on Friday.

President Magufuli's coffin was processed through the streets of Dar es Salaam
President Magufuli's coffin was carried through the streets of Dar es Salaam

Magufuli was the son of a peasant farmer and went on to became Tanzania's president in 2015.

Some residents wept and threw flowers on the coffin which was pulled by a military vehicle on Saturday.

President Samia, who was sworn into office on Friday, led the government procession in which many wore black or green and yellow to represent the colours of the ruling party.

She is Africa's only current female national leader - the Ethiopian presidency is a largely ceremonial role - and joins a short list of women on the continent to have run their countries.

Mourners wept at the state funeral procession of Magufuli
Mourners wept at the state funeral procession of Magufuli

The government announced on Wednesday that Magufuli had died from a heart condition after he had been missing from public for several weeks.

His position on coronavirus ranged from stating it did not exist in Tanzania to saying the country had beaten the pandemic through prayer.

President Samia Suluhu Hassan led a procession of mourners on Saturday
President Samia Suluhu Hassan led a procession of mourners on Saturday

But in February, after a number of senior politicians died from the virus, he conceded it was circulating in Tanzania.

Known as the "bulldozer", before the pandemic Magufuli was praised for his no-nonsense approach and hailed for his anti-corruption stance and his distinct dislike for wasting money.

On Friday President Samia spoke of the "heavy load" on her shoulders and urged for the "burying of differences" and unity during the mourning period.