Tanzania: Loliondo and the cups that are saving rather than serving many.

By Elias Mhegera, Dar es Salaam – THERE is nothing that you can term as substantially serious news from Loliondo, except for the fact that the nation that was once highly respected for its role in supporting liberation movements is soon to become the centre of total confusion and controversy.

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This is after scores of people have been condemning a wave of traditional-cum-spiritual healers who claims to have dreamed in the style that made retired pastor Ambilikile Masapila a subject of major discussions throughout Tanzania and its neighbouring countries. They also claim to treat the same disease; HIV/Aids, diabetics, ulcers and TB.

So far there are about other four ‘healers’ of the similar nature although the old man Masapila is still the centre of attraction. The most pronounced apart from Masapila ‘babu’ which means grandfather in Kiswahili, is Jafar Willina from Mbeya well known as ‘babu dogo’ which literally means little grandpa.

Others are a born again Christian Ms Margaret Mutalemwa from the central region of Tabora, and Fatma Said Sengo of Morogoro; a region not quite far away from Dar es Salaam. Leave alone the fact that April first was a Fools Day, four news papers had cheated that babu Masapila will serve Dar es Salaam residents for some hours in a way causing heavy traffic jam to those who did not have a glimpse of the day.

A good number of analysts are seeing this wave of spiritual healing as part and parcel of religious competitions, a well known phenomenon in Tanzania albeit covertly. One senior journalist of the Uhuru Publications, Lucas Kisasa had early predicted that there would soon be a mushrooming of traditional healers from other religious sects.

Being a political scientist, also part and parcel of the political fabric and since his media house is owned by the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), he was not happy that the healing process was attributed to one religious sect, this then was tantamount to instigate similar responses from other sects, this is partly contributed by the nature of politics in Tanzania.

Although this had been said in a private talk but it was depicting the projection of scenarios that are most likely to come if one religion sect had been seen to boast of uniqueness. Soon there was propaganda that the cure in Loliondo had been dubbed the name KKKT.

The acronym is synonymous with that used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT), where Masapila was once pastor just to be restored soon by bishop the head of the Northern and Central Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, Bishop Thomas Laizer, after his miraculous cure. The church is known as Kanisa la Kiinjili la Kilutheri Tanzania hence the acronym KKKT.

The cure has been dubbed as Kunywa Kikombe Kimoja Tu, which simply means ‘gulp a single cup only’, hence the acronym KKKT. The coincidence of names was not meant to bring a positive image, but rather to create a negative image and a general apathy to the cure simply because one religious sect has had made a sentimental attachment with the cure, namely the ELCT.

If Tanzania will ever fall in civil strife it will be caused by religious bigotry, since its founding fathers Dr Julius Nyerere and Abeid Karume were successful in suppressing tribal/ethnic prejudices but not religious fanaticism as occurrences of exchange of bitter words keeps on resurfacing particularly if they serve interests of some politicians at the top power echelons.

A key observation by Shout Africa.Com tells that the Loliondo cure is not purely a health matter but it has other diverse linkages particularly political. Commenting on the turn of events in spiritual cure was Dr Joseph Matumaini who is a lecturer in communication policy at the St Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT), who said that the media have lost the sense of direction.

He is surprised to see that currently it is a group of few people who set their own agenda instead of the media setting an agenda for the public. “This is wrong because we do not feed the public with the right stuff,” he commented.

He was worried that the overwhelming coverage on the Loliondo cure and at some other places is one strategy to escape attention of the media to pertinent issues that are more important to the general public.

Dr Matumaini is a Catholic priest, the church has since restricted spiritual cure it had excommunicated Archbishop Millingo in Zambia and Father Felician Nkwera Leader of Marian Faith Healing Centre (MFHC)in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania who decided to establish his own Ministry, quite parallel to the Roman Catholic in its Mass Procession.

It is obvious that any Roman Catholic follower that will claim to have spiritual powers will follow suite just like the two above-mentioned. No one from the Roman Catholic or Islamic sect has appeared openly to comment on the Loliondo cure but a sudden appearance of two ‘curers’ from the Islamic sect might appear as implied responses.

An attempt from the Mbeya region to restrict cure from
‘babu dogo’ Jafari on grounds that he has not yet attained the age of 18 (he is currently 17) met a fierce resistance from demonstrators whom appeared to be youthful and some with bargashia a popular cap for Muslims, as they appeared in a one television, this then tells that there is something more than the purported spiritual cures.

But at long last on Monday this week eventually the Tanzanian Government had given full blessing to the herbal-cum-spiritual healing by retired pastor Masapila, he had since clarified that his second name is Masapila and not Mwaisapila or Mwaisapile as it was appearing in many news papers in Tanzania.

An official statement from the ministry of health stated that 200 patients have voluntarily accepted to be traced of the said cure from Masapila. Meanwhile eight people who claimed to be HIV/Aids positive appeared in an independent television (ITV) claiming that they have had very positive changes after taking the cup from Loliondo.

The most interesting part of the story was the fact that a few days ago the deputy minister for health Dr Lucy Nkya had warned all traditional healers that were purporting to cure HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and diabetics. Although she did not mention the name of any traditional healer but it was clear she was partly alarmed by the media attention that such diseases were curable at the Samunge village through one Masapila.

But it was not surprising to see that the Governemnt had finally issued such a u-turn decision and statement because a sound number of ministers had already gone for the ‘cup’ although some political analysts are warning that this might well be used as a political ploy to withdraw attention of the public from other serious pertinent issues and concentrate in the debates centred on hypnotic cures.

Before the Loloindo cure stole the show the coverage had been drawn into the power rationing and payment to the dubious power supply company ‘Dowans’ where the Government through its power supply company TANESCO was supposed to pay more than Tsh 94 after breaching the contract.

These debates now really resurface on the media and whoever might dwell on that is seen as a victim of vendetta journalism. However the coming of new ‘healers’ have not affected anyhow the protagonist of herb-cum-spiritual healer Masapila. No one can dare criticize the old man openly now.

The ELCT where he belongs have promised to construct a clinic worth Ths 100 million (our exchange rate stands at 1530 per 1 USD) to cater for the ever growing population of health seekers at the village. The central Governemnt has allocated more than 1.05 bn for the improvement of the infrastructure to the village.

This was revealed by Dr John Magufuli the Minister of Works who took the cup at the most pronounced Samunge village on Wednesday this week. He spoke to journalists immediately after taking the ‘pill’ from babu.

Other ministers who have taken the cup are Ezekiel Mayige, Ms Sophia Simba, Dr Teresia Huvisa and regional commissioners Abass Kandoro for Mwanza region. On Sunday last week the former deputy minister Dr Felix Limbu who is still MP for Magu turned into a reporter as he was informing of the food situation whereby a goat would cost up over Tsh 100,000 equivalent of USD…..

To cut the long story short, the Loliondo cure is still news that you can not escape in the media in Tanzania, be it the topic of debate or simply a cross cutting issue in other serious debates. A small cough in the office will lead you to be ordered ‘rush to Loliondo, get a cup from babu’.

On Monday this week again there was a debate by editors, journalists and other stakeholders in the media. The occasion was organized by the Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) to acknowledge and honour works of some journalists who had performed better after being sponsored by the Fund.

The occasion was showered by a panel discussion on media accountability and transparency. The debate turned sour after some senior editors started accusing each other of corruption and unethical journalism. But while tempers were flaring up, it was one senior editor by the name of Jenerali Ulimwengu who rescued the situation.

Ulimwengu who is the chairman of the editorial board of Raia Mwema Company, publishers of a weekly Raia Mwema made a u-turn in the hot debate when he uttered that “we should not accuse each other, corruption has made all of us sick physically and psychologically no wonder we are leading to Loliondo for the cure, this is a sick nation” he concluded causing a big laughter at the Mlimani City Hall.
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