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Africa - Southern Africa - Native Religions

Anger At Ghostbuster's Ban
("The Nation," December 10, 2004)

Hundreds of angry Mwala constituency people yesterday protested at the Government's decision to bar an exorcist from carrying out a cleansing ceremony.

Vowing to go ahead with it, they threatened to disrupt Sunday's Jamhuri Day celebrations if they are interfered with.

The residents said they would stage a demonstration against their MP Mutua Katuku, district commissioner Osman Warfa and church leaders strongly opposed to inviting Tanzanian exorcist "Maji Marefu" for the ritual.

On Wednesday, the DC, escorted by armed police officers, stopped the planned ritual at the eleventh hour.

Hundreds of people had gathered at the Wamunyu market to welcome the exorcist, who was reportedly inside a house waiting to rid the area of ghosts known as jini.

The Government's move has sharply divided the community, with the residents pitted against the administration, businessmen and church leaders.

The story of the jini (genies) first featured when Maji Marefu visited Yathui, the MP's home area, and pointed out the homes he alleged to harbour the evil spirits.

"Mwala has no place for idlers or cheap politics," said Mr Katuku, an assistant minister for Finance. He would not allow his people to be divided by outdated beliefs, he said.

There was drama at Wamunyu when the protesters unsuccessfully tried to convince district officer G. O. Okal and Wamunyu Location chief Maurice Nzikali to allow Maji Marefu to remove the jini. They claimed the jini were behind the poor trade in the area.

"The jini owners have ensured that no new business will prosper to rival theirs. The ghosts are occasionally fed by sacrificing people in unexplained road accidents," said resident David Katiso.

But a trader who has operated a shop for 30 years, dismissed the jini stories as coming from lazy people.

He said: "Our people have become lazy. They want things to come easy. Business requires a sharp mind, and when you fail to employ your brain to the maximum, you don't blame others for your shortcomings."

The DC said Maji Marefu was banned from the district, adding: "He has already brought division and confusion by pitting people against one another. We are not going to allow him to operate here."

The Machakos Catholic bishop, the Rev Martin Kivuva Musonde, termed the stand-off unfortunate.

"It is disturbing to see that some leaders want to gain political mileage by wasting other people's time and engaging them in evil," he said.

The bishop asked Christians and leaders to come out openly and oppose those encouraging in evil activities. He praised the security officers for moving to bar the exorcist.