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Kamaliza, witchcraft and gullible journalists

Tokosha Kamaliza is a name that is, perhaps and ironically, better known in Nairobi than in Busia County where she lives and ‘practices’. Sounds familiar?

Kamaliza has become famous not because she is a TV celebrity or a successful businesswoman rubbing shoulders with the Chris Kirubis of Kenya but because she fooled some major media houses blind. She stage-managed good sorcery drama and it hit the headlines big time.

Allow us to take you back to the beginning.

Kenyan media carried two key news items in March and April 2018. The first item was aired by NTV on March 20 at 21:49.55. It highlighted the story of a night runner who had been “netted by the charms of a witchdoctor”. In the generously displayed video clip on NTV, a trump of a human is seen covered in dry banana leaves. He is holding a traditional tray, the ones our grandmothers used to winnow grain.

The man jumps around in circles as if in frenzy doing what seems to be pure endless drama to the great amusement of the onlookers who seem to question why “they” (we assume the handlers) are not showing his face. This drama is explained through a good narration, well choreographed for gullible viewers. The witchdoctor and a number of the observers render the same narrative.

The witchdoctor praises her medicine in a peculiar lower eastern accent: “Huyu mama alikuja kunililia karibu wiki mbili halali. Na ndio akanileta kwa hii mboma yake nikamtengeneza na nikamuwekea kinga. Wakati nimemwekea kinga sikuenda mbali sana sababu nilikuwa najua huyu atashikwa saa yeyote tu na ndo nikakuja nikapata ameshikwa.”

Ironically she speaks in front of a banner, which provides more details about her work. The woman is wearing a T-Shirt boldly emblazoned with huge letters, her name “Tokosha Kamaliza” accompanied by phone details. Oh, and look at the fence preventing the onlookers from getting nearer the event. Simply beautiful.

The so-called night-runner is clearly a good actor performing village theatre to an international audience through NTV cameras. Perhaps the county government of Busia should construct a cultural centre where such talents can be showcased. The night-runner is whisked away by the witchdoctor’s assistant, who is also adorned in a T-shirt similar to that of the boss. Maybe it was he who nasa’d the night-runner. Good job. Another fine actor!

The second clip was on K24, aired on April 10, the same day the incident took place. Unlike the first incident which takes place in the compound of a “beneficiary”, the second takes place in the home of the witchdoctor. She is wearing the same head cloth as in the previous case.

This clip opens with a man wearing tight orange shorts letting out a cry of pain, as the presenter blurts: “It is not every day you see a man cry…” We are then told of how maggots are “oozing from the houseboy’s private parts”. Ironically, the maggots are only shown slithering on the ground as the man reaches inside his pants and empties more. Oi! There is some narration from the man who procured the services of the witchdoctor to “treat” the houseboy who had reportedly been sleeping with the man’s wife. Another good job!

However, this time around the witchdoctor does not promote herself through T-shirts and banners. She is well-dressed, well covered and narrates how she performed magic by “kutuma askari wake” to punish the “home-wrecker”. In this clip again, the witchdoctor happens to be Kamaliza. The slayer!

She has surely slayed Kenya’s media!

When The Observer visited the compound where the recent incident took place seeking to have a word with the famed witchdoctor, we were told she was away upon being directed to Room 3 in a lolwly estate known as Trailer Inn. “Hajakuwa kwa muda”, we were told upon enquiring.

Previously, we had an interaction with journalists who covered the story. They expressed doubt whether the woman was genuine: “Walituita kama innocent people ndo twende kucover”, one journalist with Emuria FM retorted. “Huyu maganga hapei watu muda kutambua yule affected. She whisks them away fast”, another journalist said in dismay.

Where did the clips originate if local journalists doubted the story?

Further enquiry established that Kamaliza has good mobilisers and a keen press team. The clip that was shared in the final incident is said to have originated from Kisii. One journalist made an interesting observation: “According to me siwezi jua kwamba yule mama alikuwa mganga ama sio. Tulifika pale tukapata jamaa amekamatwa na maggots.”

With this kind of information one wonders how a responsible editor in the studio decided to have such a story published/aired. The first clip clearly markets the witchdoctor showing her mobile numbers and her name. The second coverage clearly concretises her agenda.

How did the media not notice this? Yes, there is no guide on what an editor should do when presented with material about witchcraft. But any good journalists should notice a fake story when they see one. This was great PR for the witchdoctor and her people. The media swallowed the whole mess hook, line and sinker!

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