From the NY Times:
Crowds Come Over Roads and by Helicopters for Tanzanian’s Cure-All Potion
He’s a sensation in two countries. He’s snarled traffic for miles. He’s so popular that people have literally died waiting in line to see him.
Ambilikile Mwasapile, a 76-year-old retired pastor in rural Tanzania, has been offering a herbal concoction that he bills as a miracle potion that can cure just about any illness. In the past few weeks, tens of thousands of sick people have scrambled for a sip of his homebrewed drink. Some, apparently, have even flown in by helicopter.
On Monday, Tanzanian officials said that several dozen elderly and sick people had recently paid the price for joining the throngs.
“They died from the long queues,” said Isidore Shirima, a local official in Arusha, a town popular with tourists about six hours’ drive from the pastor’s village. “We’re not going to stop this, but we want to organize it better.”
Mr. Mwasapile, a former Lutheran preacher, lives in Samunge, a village in the middle of the savannah near the Kenya-Tanzania border. He began administering his miracle potion several months ago, and charges about 30 cents a cup. He says it can cure AIDS, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure — you name it.
According to The Daily Nation, Kenya’s largest newspaper, Tanzanian officials have tested the herbs in the concoction and have verified that it is safe to drink. Mr. Mwasapile even has a Facebook page, listed under “Doctor, Arusha, Tanzania.”
Traditional healers are not considered fringe elements here. Sometimes, their teachings take macabre directions. In Tanzania, so many people believe, for example, that the body parts of albinos carry good luck, that dozens of albino people have been killed by thugs, who then sell their bones, hair and skin for thousands of dollars.
Mr. Mwasapile’s village is remote, with no good roads, and is hard to reach from any sizable town. It can take people from either side of the border days to reach him, with the elderly and sick camping out under trees on the way.
He issued a statement over the weekend saying that he planned to halt new arrivals to his village for a week, until he could serve everyone who was already camped out there.
Esther Lally, a recent college graduate living in Arusha, said she saw helicopters landing in the bush ferrying Tanzanian politicians to the village. She said that the potion worked.
“It’s all about faith,” said Mrs. Lally, who drank it herself two weeks ago. “If you believe that this works, it works. I saw many people there who had gotten better.”
Mrs. Lally wanted the potion to cure her ulcers, and she said she was already feeling better.
She said the drink “tastes like tea, without the sugar.”