Queues miles long snake through the bush around Loliondo in Tanzania, a remote pilgrimage site for thousands of the unwell and the unlucky all clamouring to buy a small cup of a murky liquid with cure-all qualities from an aging witchdoctor.
Mchungaji Ambilikile Mwasapile aka Babu (as he’s called on his Facebook fan page) is a 76-year old former evangelical pastor who has created a “miracle cure” in a cup, for only 500 Tanzanian shillings (roughly 5 cents) a dose.
Thousands have been to see Mwasapile to purchase his “mugariga”, a herbal remedy made to a secret recipe. At least 52 people have reportedly died while waiting in a 16-mile long line for their cure. Some were critically ill patients who had been taken out of hospital by relatives in order to receive the miracle cure.
Mwasapile’s concoction is said to cure anything and everything from HIV/Aids to misfortune. Tanzania’s health ministry has declared the drink to be safe but its curative properties remain moot. Its huge popularity – and his growing fame – led Mwasapile to appeal at the weekend for no new patients to come until the existing queues had cleared.
Widespread belief in the effectiveness of traditional medicine in Tanzania sometimes takes a horrific turn, with albinos targeted by murderous criminal gangs who harvest their body parts which are said to bring good fortune.