Forget about politics! Forget about football! Forget about corruption! One topic above all has dominated conversations in Tanzania during recent weeks – the tens of thousands of people who have been flocking to Samunge village, Loliondo in Arusha Region to try a ‘miracle’ cure’ being dispensed there by retired 76-year old Evangelical Lutheran Pastor Ambilikile Masapila.
The whole thing can only be described as extraordinary. For example:
So many people have gone to the village that shortage of food and water initially sent prices soaring. A 1.5-litre bottle of water was selling at between TShs 4,000 and 5,000.
Thousands of patients have been stuck in 25-km traffic jams on the road.
The Pastor said that the cure was revealed to him by God. It heals all chronic diseases like HIV/Aids, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and many others.
Its dosage is only one 250 millilitre cup made by boiling mugariga treeroots.
Quote from a visitor to the area: “Even if you have something to cook, there is no water or firewood for cooking, making life in this area very difficult. Taking a motorcycle from here to a source of tapped water is 15,000/-. But, by God’s grace, I’ll survive until I get a cup of the ‘miracle concoction…..As you see there are no toilets, no bathrooms. The government should help to put up these structures…..The road to and from Masapila’s clinic is single lane and slippery, unable to allow a faster traffic flow.”
Quote: “The tourist industry can see Loliondo becoming the centre of a big tourist attraction.”
The Citizen asked people why Loliondo had become so popular. It received many responses in writing and on line. Extracts:
“No wonder we Tanzanians are ranked as the most superstitious people in the world. You can see even national leaders openly going for the magical healing. I can see very little reasoning here.”
”This is not about the medicine. It is the sacrament, if you know the ABCs of Christianity. It is the faith in Christ that gives the concoction the healing power.”
”Loliondo has become a crowd puller because the concoction is effective. Now the government should put in place the requisite infrastructure and amenities to ease problems such as accommodation, water, roads, etc.”
”Babu Mwasapile has become an instant hit mostly because of the power of the word of mouth……With many of those who have been able to drink the ‘medicine’ claiming to have had relief or to have been wholly cured, the treatment has spread like a bushfire in the Sahara desert.”
”This is a good indication of the failure of the national health system, which is not only wanting in terms of facilities and personnel, but also ridden with corruption and red tape. To me, the experience is also a good sign of how sick our nation is physically, clinically and emotionally.”
“Has the Tanzania Revenue Authority been to Babu’s place? The old man is minting millions in tax-free income!”
The former Pastor admitted that he was overwhelmed by the huge turnout of people from all corners of Tanzania and neighbouring countries. But he told reporters that he was ready and able to dispense his liquid concoction of herbs in person to everyone turning up for healing “as directed by God”. He had been touched by the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe that had led to deaths of sick people collapsing while queuing to reach him. By April the death toll had reached seventy-eight.
Patients pay 500 Tanzanian shillings – about $0.33 – for one cup.
Among those seeking the cure were several public figures – including government ministers. One of the patients was said to be the wife of the President of the Congo. Politicians were said to be using the cure with many spending large amounts of money to arrange transport for their constituents to Loliondo. “I have set aside Sh 12 million to arrange transport for 200 of my constituents admitted Arusha MP (Chadema), Godbless Lema – Majira.
It is safe but…
In March, a team of experts drawn from the Chief Government Chemist, the Tanzania Drugs and Food Authority, the National Institute for Medical Research and the Muhimbili National Hospital endorsed the herb as safe for human consumption. “Yes, the herb has been cleared, it is not toxic, but that does not guarantee its potency on the myriad diseases it is said to cure,” said one expert. “It will take long, perhaps many months or years to come to a scientific conclusion.”
In March Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda promised to supply tents and build a dispensary in the village to treat patients needing medication before or after getting the herbal drink – Guardian.