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Tanzanian 'miracle' pastor Mwasapile calls for a break

Tanzanian 'miracle' pastor Mwasapile calls for a break

 

Experts are investigating the safety of Mr. Mwasapile's (left) cure

A Tanzanian pastor has asked people to stop going to his remote home for a "miracle cure" after thousands flocked there, causing chaos in the surrounding area.

 

All roads in Tanzania, including the dirt ones, seem to be leading nowadays to the Loliondo village about 400 kms from the nearest town of Arusha in Northern Tanzania. A “miracle cure” has turned the small village into the most famous place in the country, if not the continent.

 

Ambilikile Mwasapile, a former pastor of the Lutheran Church of Tanzania is the man behind “the cup” – a herbal concoction believed to be able to cure all diseases including HIV AIDS, cancer, paralysis and diabetes.

 

No medical training
For one “cup”, Mwasapile charges Tsh. 500 (about 25 Euro cents) of which Tsh.200 go to the Lutheran Church and the rest to himself and his assistants.  Popularly known as ‘babu wa Loliondo’ (the grandfather from Loliondo), Masapila does not have any medical training and says: "my knowledge came in a dream." He says that books and medicine cannot cure chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS.

 

Tanzania has about 2 million people who are HIV positive, with over 140,000 of them being children.

 

"Always tired"
William Mwaipopo has taken “the cup” for his chronic heart problem. “I could not do any hard work. I always felt tired. After drinking Babu’s medicine, I can even run now,” he says.

 

“When we reached, there was a 20-kilometer long queue. At first I wanted to go back as I thought my turn would never come but I knew I had to wait,” says Mwaipopo.

 

Kaimu Molel travelled for 18 hours to take his old and ailing relative to meet the Babu. The relative was suffering from diabetes but is now cured, he claims. “He is back in good health, God be praised,” Kaimu says.

Rev Ambilikile "Babu" Mwasapile, 76, says he does not want any new arrivals until after Friday 1 April, to let the crowds die down.  Local media report that about 52 people have died while waiting to see him.  A BBC reporter says the queues to see him stretch for 26km (16 miles).

 

Belief in magic and the powers of traditional healers are widespread in Tanzania.  Some witchdoctors say that the body parts of people with albinism are effective when making magic charms, leading to the killing of dozens of albinos in recent years.  In 2009, the government outlawed all 'witch doctors' and traditional healers.

But on Monday, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said he would not take any action to stop Mr Mwasapile's activities.

 

Scepticism
The government remains sceptical over the “miracle cure” even though ministers and officials are said to be taking the medicine themselves. Health minister Dr. Haji Mponda said: “We are waiting for the official report of a government task force evaluating the situation.” No report has yet been issued.  The Catholic Church, the biggest in Tanzania, has also expressed its concern. “Miracles are not so simple, the people who are taking the medicine must be careful,” said Archbishop Cardinal Polycarp Pengo.

 

Huge price to pay
Another issue is that the trip to reach the medicine man's place is far from being a simple one. Mini-buses, 4x4's and normal cars are driven on rough terrains, not excluding river-crossings. But since the recent increase in popularity of “the cup” people are prepared to pay whatever amount to reach Masapila’s place in Loliondo.

 

Prices charged by minibus drivers can reach up to Tsh.70,000 (about 35 Euros) - an exorbitant amount of money, taken into account that 40 million Tanzanians live on 50 Euro cents a day.

And Masapila made sure people physically come to him.

"If you take the magic formula at home it won’t work. Drink the potion and know that it will heal you," says Babu while completing the treatment process with prayers. The crowd is in awe while the waiting line keeps growing.

 

'Safe to drink'

Mr Mwasapile's concoction is made from herbs and water, which he sells for 500 Tanzanian shillings (five cents; 3p).  When she visited Mr Mwasapile's home near the northern Loliondo town recently, the BBC's Caroline Karobia found 6,000 people waiting to see the retired Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) pastor.

Queue of cars waiting to see Rev Mwasapile

The queues stretched for 26km (16 miles) down the road

 

They are waiting for days by the roadside and outside his home in Samunge village without shelter, clean water or toilets.

 

As word has spread in the past month of the pastor's supposed ability to cure any ailments, some people have even been taken out of hospital by their relatives who believe they are more likely to be cured by Mr Mwasapile.  Some of these have died before seeing him, while others are reported to have died after taking his concoction.

Health Minister Haji Hussein Mponda told the BBC that tests had shown that the mixture was safe for human consumption.  He said tests were now being conducted to see if it has any medicinal properties.

 

Extra police have been deployed to the area to control the huge crowds, some of whom have travelled from neighbouring countries such as Kenya and even further afield.  Mr. Mwasapile asked for the break following a meeting with local officials.