Most Tanzanians have a religion and follow its teachings. Though Christianity and Islam are the most entrenched in the population, accounting for the majority of followers, it is puzzling to note that many believers still lace their faiths with witchcraft.
These are the people, who, in addition to their professed belief as devout Christians or Muslims, retain the irrational belief in superstitions. They foolishly believe that certain social, political, cultural or economic circumstances that are in many instances not logically related can influence outcomes.
In several communities, we see or hear about persons who attribute to witchcraft any event they regard as extraordinary. They believe that supernatural powers can bring about success and that the occult can cause ominous situations such as poverty, disease, infertility, business failures, accidents and so forth.
Tales are often rife during elections, for instance, of candidates, their standard of education or public position notwithstanding, who resort to sorcerers to influence victory. Some people looking for employment or aspiring for promotions follow the same path, wasting their meagre resources on sorcerers without yielding expected results.
Some people blame their parents, spouses, children, other relatives and close friends for any bad luck that befalls them, even if they have themselves to blame, and simply because a sorcerer has told them so. The immediate outcome is tension that builds up with retaliation against an alleged source of misfortune.
But things don’t end there because revenge for harm can easily spark off a chain of reactions and counteractions that could lead to a bigger conflict and involve many more people.
When superstition is combined with ignorance, poverty and suspicion it turns into a highly combustible fuel that ignites conflict. More dangerously these factors often energise the wicked myth that certain faiths are inherently incompatible. That’s not true and Tanzanians must shun the supposed influence of superstition in matters of national interest.
Though recent studies have shown that belief in magic is widespread throughout sub-Saharan African countries, we should not let ourselves be fooled that there is a supernatural or magical power that can bring about a high standard of living to every person in this country or elsewhere.
There is no magical power that can wipe out poverty, eliminate disease and remove all the obstacles to our development, if people do not invest in education for their children, work hard and apply modern technologies for improved output.
Superstition-fuelled atrocities and human rights abuses such killings of aged women in rural areas, female genital mutilation and the slaughter of albinos are clear testimony to the deeply rooted ignorance of the population and the ineffectiveness of leadership. For how long will this country let the irrational belief in witchcraft hold the people’s minds hostage?
Tanzanians are in dire need of enlightenment so that they can use their resources properly to free themselves from the grip of poverty and underdevelopment. Progress to that state won’t be possible unless we sweep away false beliefs and the destructive influences of superstition in society.
We need leaders with a knowledgeable scientific outlook at every level. It’s high time officials with no capacity to critically analyse issues falling within the scope of their office were relieved of those positions. Beliefs in supernatural or magical powers are relics of the Dark Ages.
**The Citizen - Tanzania