Retired Pastor Ambakile Masapila of Samunge village in Loliondo, Arusha Region, today needs no much introduction in Tanzania, East Africa, and even in other parts of the world where some people happen to have interest in the kind of services he offers.
The man has gained hitherto unthinkable prominence, thanks to the ever dynamic mass media outlets, which are busy competing to disseminate all sorts of information about him.
The Pastor-turned-magical healer reportedly cures all sorts of ailments. He performs his wonders by dispensing a cup of “mugariga” traditional herb mix which was revealed to him by the Almighty God while in his sleep, and the medicines can only be effective if dispensed by him - the chosen one. Of late Mzee Masapila or “Babu” has clarified that the patient also must deeply believe in God’s power for him or her to be cured.
Unlike many other urban based traditional healers, both genuine and crooks, his charges for services rendered are quite modest, obviously not pegged on the economic theory of demand and supply where the price of the commodity or service goes up whenever demand outstrips supply - his service charge is a mere Sh500, which he reportedly shares with church and his assistants who spend much time in the bush, in search of the necessary raw materials.
Surely, if we were to vote on two or three personalities currently most controversial in our society and beyond, then Pastor Mwasapila is not only likely to be one of them but might even occupy number one position. Evidence to prove this claim abounds. Stories on him have been occupying newspaper front pages, his image has been and remains a common sight on local television screens, and people continue to talk about him in buses, bars and homes.
My take on the healer of Loliondo is that he is controversial mainly because curing the sick by miracles is by itself an ingredient for controversy. In fact the humble pastor does not claim any credit for the magical healing he performs, insisting that he is a mere messenger of God who works through him.
This healing process is not easily comprehended by many in society and this generates many questions, especially among his detractors as well as doubting Thomases of the 21st Century, who happen to be influenced by science and technology.
The issue of the kind of ailments he cures remains unclear and controversial too. He is on record to have said his cup of medicine, a standard dose, cures Aids, diabetes and hypertension. However, reports apparently emanating from testimonials given by those who have benefited from his services make the list longer by adding cancer, paralysis, mental disorders, heart-complications, and you name it.
We understand clinical tests are being conducted on his medicine as well as on some people who claim to have been cured. Probably the result of these tests will give us more light on the efficiency of pastor Mwasapila’s magic medicine, assuming political interests do not intervene to block publication of the findings.
Other questions which crop up in the wake of this interesting development include; how come that our leaders, and the elite in general, so much believe in magical cure? Do we have enough affordable and reliable medical services to adequately cater for the needs of our people?
The fact that we witnessed ministers, MPs, and national political leaders trooping to Arusha to get a cup of the magical medicine speaks volumes. It confirms long standing rumours that our leaders believe in magical activities and are fond of visiting fortune tellers, traditional healers as well as black magicians, especially during the election time. Whether this kind of attitude is a blessing or a curse also remains controversial.
I have heard observers who seem convinced that the Loliondo case is likely to boost the popularity of thousands of faith healers and traditional medicine practitioners, currently capitalizing on the ignorance and frustration of the people, to give them hope and make a fortune in the process.
Then there is the question of whether we have reliable medical services in the country or not. Some observers contend that some of the thousands of citizens flocked to Loliondo due to being disillusioned about the available medical services in the country.
The best move at this juncture is to further scrutinise the Loliondo event and see if it can provide us with more useful lessons.
Henry Muhanika is a Media Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org