As thousands of patients rush to Loliondo’s magic man, Arusha tour operators are laughing all the way to their banks, as beneficiaries of a booming transport business, which has earned the sector billions of shillings in just one month, a survey by The Guardian on Sunday has established.
Transport to Loliondo has become lucrative business. A seat in one of the Land Cruisers we spotted around, costs up to Sh120,000 or 240 times the amount of money it costs to get a cup of Pastor Ambilikile’s concoction.With over 2,000 vehicles currently on the queue waiting for their customers to have a drink of life, the ‘Loliondo pilgrimage’ is a blessing in disguise for hundreds of tour operators in Arusha city.
According to the fare charged by transport operators the 2000 vehicles currently in Loliondo’s area gives a figure of roughly Sh2 billion, making the discovery of the magic herb a lucrative business in Arusha city.
Following the big demand that has exceeded supply, hiring an eight-seat Toyota Land cruiser for the return trip to Samunge village costs about Sh960, 000, thanks to the discovery of a magic herb by retired Pastor, Ambilikile Masapila.
To put things into perspective, tour operators are now earning three times what they used to get when ferrying foreign tourists who visit the Geneva of Africa.
Paul Ndokeji, a prominent tour guide in Arusha, says that transporting patients from Arusha to Samunge, nearly 400km, is more lucrative than his normal business of ferrying foreign tourists to the famous northern tourist circuit.
For instance, Ndokeji says, his eight seat tour vehicle generates Sh960,000 for a trip to Samunge, compared to a mere Sh270,000 if he takes tourists to the circuit.
He says all tour operators, who are now taking patients from the northern safari capital of Arusha to Loliondo, are selling their return ticket for Sh120,000 per head, instead of the normal bus ticket of Sh26,000.
Bus operators are charging Sh70,000 per head, one way, up from Sh26,000 before the rush for Pastor Masapila’s miracle herbal cure began.
The bus fare for Arusha-Mwanza over 800km away stands at Sh32,000 at the moment, which means the Samunge fare is more than double that of the Arusha-Mwanza double distance route.
“Honestly, taking people to Samunge village for a miracle herbal cup is a highly lucrative trade than the wildlife tourism,” Ndokeji explained.
No wonder now even helicopter routes have been leading to Samunge village flying affluent people from Arusha, Kilimanjaro and as far as Nairobi. The rush to Samunge has also boosted sales to most of Arusha major supermarkets as people en route to Samunge normally shop for foodstuffs and beverages.
“We have seen the sales going up since the Loliondo divine herbal cure was discovered. At the moment bread, juices, water, biscuits, peanuts and such-like are not staying in the shelves for a day,” said Joan Massawe, a director of one of the supermarkets.
A marketing officer for the same supermarket, Sylvia Obeid said she was grateful to Pastor Masapila for not only curing people, but also for stimulating their business.
“Pastor Masapila’s miracle cure is a blessing for some of us. Expectations are high that traders would raise our glasses to toast for remarkable earnings this year,” she said. At remote part of Sumange in Loliondo plains in Ngorongoro district, where an estimated daily visitors of 70,000 people flock, a plate of rice and beef is sold at Sh6,000, up from the previous Sh1,500/-.
One litre bottle of water is also selling at a hiked prices of Sh3,000, up from the normal Sh1,000.
However, Pastor Masapila has lashed out at traders for taking advantage of the sickness of people to boost their earnings. Pastor Masapila has raised a red flag against all traders who continue with their evil practices, saying they will become bankrupt in the near future.
The 76-year-old Masapila, a former pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) last year announced that he had a cure for HIV/Aids.
Masapila shot to fame with his claim of curing Aids and other chronic diseases that has fired up the imagination of the long suffering patients.
The news of the retired pastor cum herbalist has been spreading like wildfire in dry season and now he is expecting to receive patients from Europe, American, Middle East, India and China.
Masapila combines potency of the concoctions of indigenous tree called ‘mugariga’, with divine powers to treat people, mainly against chronic diseases which have defied cure by modern medicine.
These include HIV/Aids, asthma, diabetes, blood pressure and cancer. As a result, Samunge village on Loliondo plains in Ngorongoro District in Arusha is now attracting more than 70,000 people daily in search for alternative medicine or what is now touted as “magic formula.”