“This is the end of days. You must choose a righteous church to lead you and not allow
syourself to be blown around like a scrap of paper. Trample on the old man of Loliondo! Destroy the old man of Loliondo! Crush his works!”
Words from Dar’s leading preacher, Bishop Kakobe of the Full Gospel Bible Fellowship, as reported in yesterday’s Mwananchi newspaper. The Old Man of Loliondo is retired Lutheran pastor Ambilikile Mwasapile. He claims to have been told by god in a dream of his special brew which with one dose will cure AIDS, diabetes, asthma, and whatever you’re having yourself. The price of the dose too is divinely fixed – at 500 shillings (c. 25 euro cents).
On Mwananchi’s website, the story was filed under “Habari za Siasa” – Political News. If politics involves trying to attract scarce resources to your place, then politics it is. The crush of the sick and the desperate has led to calls for improved roads, parking areas, accommodation and eateries.This has worked before – not in Tanzania, but in Ireland. An energetic priest and faithful hordes managed to convince Charles Haughey‘s cash strapped 1980s government to stump up £10 million for an airport serving the Marian Shrine at Knock – where Mary was believed to have appeared the century before last and where miracles are still believed to occur. Surely Loliondo people will be making a pitch to TASAF soon, if only for a new bus stand.
Or maybe it should have been in the Business News section? Kakobe’s reaction was not atypical of a powerful player in a crowded market when faced by a quick witted upstart. And the reported impact on taxi and bus fares in the area – more than doubling – would have justified such a classification too.
And neither is the connection between politicians with colourful pasts and the supernatural limited to Ireland. In a timely intervention yesterday, speaking at the launch of a fundraiser for orphans , former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa placed himself in the front line against witchcraft. As reported in Mwananchi (and not in response to the old man of Loliondo):
Lowassa, who is also the CCM MP for Monduli, called on religious leaders to spread the word of the lord in order that people may change and follow the lord and abandon witchcraft.
He said that this is a great challenge for religions leaders and reiterated that he too is ready to participate wholeheartedly in efforts to change Tanzanians.
Working out the boundaries between ‘religion’, ‘witchcraft’ and traditional healing is never easy. And it gets more complicated when politics and
religion business are introduced – for news editors as well as everybody else. It may make daily life problematic for the sceptical, but the Loliondo case vividly reminds us of the centrality of spirituality and the supernatural to most aspects of Tanzanian life.