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False prophet drowns in river amid chants

Daily News, Tanzania
Aug. 28, 2007
Peti Siyame • Tuesday August 28, 2007

That water bodies are believed to be the gateways to the underneath spirit world, is not altogether uncommon belief but never has a man boasted to descend to the “gates of hell” by jumping into a river under the full glare of chanting and dancing onlookers.

Unbelievable? That is what happened at Masigo village in Mpanda district last Saturday when traditional medicine man cum soothsayer Nyasio Alfonsi (40) threw himself into Ifuma River amid chants and drumming promising to resurface after three days “with revelation from the ancestral spirits for the village on planned tribal rituals.”

Four days later, Alfonso was nowhere to be seen as the villagers too awoke from their stupor to mount a search only to fish out his decomposed body some metres downstream.

Rukwa Regional Police Commander Mr Daudi Siasi confirmed the incident which he said, was reported to police by village leaders.

It was not immediately clear whether the tribal rituals would go on as planned later this week but Masigo is certainly a grieving village now rather than the proud source of prophesy from departed ancestors.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in Rukwa region and traditional medicinemen are often held in awe and feared for their spells believed to be ‘divine’ prophesy and judgement.

The region is also notorious for grotesque murders with bodies found skinned and private parts removed in what is often believed to be killings associated with belief in witchcraft.

Whereas humans are believed to practise ‘astral travel’ or shedding the mortal body to travel in spirit to great distances and through physical obstacles, practitioners would still die if they failed to rejoin their bodies or casing for the soul, before daybreak.

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