Tanzania 'witchdoctors' held

Police in the south-western Tanzanian town of Mbeya have detained three people claiming to be traditional doctors with money making powers.

Mbeya regional police commander, Said Mwema told BBC News Online that the trio, aged between 18 and 25 years, were arrested on Wednesday in a local guest house, which they had turned into their surgery and money-production headquarters.

He said that the fraudsters were found with fake notes of 2,000 ($1), 1,000 and 500 Tanzanian shillings, hundreds of newspaper pieces, which they had cut to match the size of the notes and a small wooden box with a padlock.

The suspects, who are expected to appear before the court on Monday, have admitted to producing fake money and conning the public, Mr Mwema said.


The police commander has appealed to more victims to come forward and give evidence in order to remove from society "such tricksters who always target the poor and the needy".

"We need to re-educate the community to be more vigilant and avoid parting with their money in this way," he said.

The three tricksters were foiled after a police tip-off from a member of the public, who was asked to put 50,000 shillings, in the witchdoctors' wooden box, lock it and throw the padlock into the toilet.

They promised to turn it into 350,000 shillings after two days.

"The conmen would hold a "huge bundle of notes" - but what they actually do is put the newspaper pieces with a 2,000 shillings at the top of the bundle and tie it with elastic bands," the police said.

'Magical powers'

The region has witnessed the emergence of more and more young men who call themselves professors and claim expertise in healing diseases and mystical powers to make people rich.

"People should ask themselves, if witchdoctors can perform miracles and make others rich, why don't they enrich themselves first?" Mr Mwema said.

Mbeya region, was at the centre of human skinning murders in recent years, from where skins were transported to Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo before reaching their final destination in West Africa.

In 2001, police broke a skin-smuggling ring and 13 people were charged with the murders of six young people.