SEVERAL years ago, a senior leader in one of the regions in the Lake Victoria zone was literally led up the garden path.
He assembled a team of officials that travelled to a village several kilometers from the regional headquarters, to witness, firsthand, what had been touted as a miracle. The trip was deemed essential, as the ‘miracle’ had been a talking point within and beyond the region.
The team’s fact-finding mission was thus meant to give it a stamp of approval. The boss most probably panicked, fearing that, he may have been censured by someone higher up, for not ignoring what could have been an important development within his jurisdiction.
At the heart of the presumed miracle that ultimately turned out to be utter nonsense, was that a very huge rock located a few metres off a major road had shifted from its original position by a few metres. On the surface, those given to rushed decisions or to being easy believers even in respect of narrations over which a cloud of doubt hangs, were convinced that, indeed, the shift had occurred.
It was most embarrassing when it subsequently transpired that the perceived miracle was a huge hoax. A smart aleck had manufactured the lie, fed it into the rumour mill, and was embraced by quite many people as solid fact.
The embarrassment was deepened by the senior government leader being caught off-guard. He had undermined official policy under which superstitious beliefs, with which the ‘rock-shifting’ drama was associated are outlawed.
Against that backdrop, the drama in which Kabwe Primary School has reportedly been tormented by evil spirits, merits sober reflection. People in the neighbourhood of the school in Rulwa Region’s Nkasi District are currently in a state of acute nervousness, courtesy of a problem of near-crisis dimensions.
It stems from the psychological and related torture to which recurrent spells have been subjecting female pupils there. It is a problem that has haunted the academic institution out of whose 2,085 learners 900 are girls, since November last year. A curious angle related to initiatives to overcome it is the decision by the grassroots leadership to outsource ‘experts’ from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At a recent briefing session, the village chairman, Mr Richard Madeni, explained that the decision, which, comical as it may sound, amounts to importation of expertise, was prompted by failure by local experts to tackle the problem. Local healers, he said, had confessed that, their efforts to subdue the spirits had utterly failed. They had proposed, so Mr Madeni elaborated, that DRC healers, whose expertise they perceived as superior, should be contracted to undertake the delicate task.
As I am penning down this piece, the ‘importation’ of DRC healers may have already taken effect, and the process of liberating the hapless girls may already be underway. It would be imprudent, however, to ignore the scientific, and precisely, medical dimension.
The Acting Rukwa Regional Medical Officer, Emmanuel Mtika, pointed out that the Lake Tanganyika coastline was malaria- prone, and that the acute strain of the disease was commonplace. What he was apparently alluding to, was that scientific dimensions to the problem should be thoroughly probed, before suspicions are cast elsewhere.
Plus, a sharp demarcation must be drawn between traditional medicine and superstitious machinations. The truth will ultimately emerge to which, between the two, the Kabwe Primary School problem is related. If it turns out that malaria is the problem, hopes for relief will be facilitated by medical interventions, traditional and modern.
As for the ‘evil spirits’ dimension, the issue may replicate the ‘rock-shifting miracle’ that I dwelt on at the beginning. Meaning, in essence, that, whereas the grassroots leadership may have been propelled by the ‘desperate situations prompt desperate measures’ imperative, they may have breached the anti-superstition code.
‘Importing’ exorcists, along the lines of engaging foreign experts in fields like medicine, engineering and architecture, or crossing borders in pursuit of superior services, is verily eyebrow- raising.
It is linked to the superstition mindset to which quite many people are enslaved, ranging from illiterates to high academic achievers. A glaring manifestation to that end is how in spite of spirited government curbs, including prohibition of public advertisements by witchdoctors, practitioners of that so-called dark science, are still thriving, businesswise.
They would be doomed if there hadn’t been amongst us, or were a negligible minority, those who anchor their success in business, at jobs, professional careers, marriage and politics (entry into Bunge, for instance) on ‘juju’.
Plus, associating misfortunes, ranging from a bout of malaria to dismissal from employment primarily over ethical lapses, to someone, or people one strongly suspects – only suspects to be evil !