For long, witchcraft was a preserve of rural folk. However, this belief in supernatural help from witchdoctors, is slowly being embraced by the urban corporate. Charles Etukuri explores the new trend
The Christmas season was fast approaching and most government offices had broken for the holiday.
Jim Ouka, (not real names) a senior manager with a government department, was on leave.
“I was supposed to travel to Kumi, but since I had examinations shortly after Christmas, I wanted to pick some files from office so that I could use the break to revise,” he says.
So he dashed to his offices in Entebbe at midnight to pick the file. “I did not use the official vehicle so I opted for a motorbike. When I reached the offices, I found the lights off but then I could hear some sounds from the back of my office,” Ouka says.
He was shocked when he saw two men dancing naked in the dark. When he got closer, he recognised one of them as his deputy. The two were performing a ritual as they danced around a slaughtered white goat, dove and a chicken.
Too shocked, he remained hidden. The dancing went on, with his name being mentioned at short intervals. After about 30 minutes, the two men left.
“He was one of my most trusted workmate. I trusted and respected him,” Ouka says. He remained tight-lipped when work resumed.
Last week, Emily Luswata, a witchdoctor, was arrested in Luwero district on allegations of witchcraft. According to the Police, the witchdoctor was hired from Rakai district by a top district official in the finance department to bewitch Proscovia Namansa and Makulubita sub-county LC5 councillor, Ssonko Kisekwa. Luswata alleges that she was paid sh20m to kill them in order to stop an ongoing investigation into his academic qualifications.
Luswata gave her client some concoctions to drink and some other fetishes to spread in the council chambers where the two councillors sat, but nothing happened. The client then reported her to the Police, asking for intervention so that he could get the sh20m refund.
Last year, several officials in Lwengo district shunned their offices citing witchcraft, after Deo Kiberu, the district NAADS production and marketing officer, suddenly fell sick and was admitted in hospital.
The incident scared Kiberu from returning to office. It took prayers and the intervention of top district leaders to convince him to return to office.
A week before this incident, Robert Wanzala had also quit his job over suspected witchcraft. According to Paul Ssekate, the Malongo sub-county chairman, witchcraft is widely practiced in Lwengo.
“Some politicians in the district have resorted to witchcraft in order to scare their rivals from office. There are reported cases of unknown people entering offices after official working hours, to plant charms,” Ssekate says.
In 2010, coffee beans in banana fibres and dead insects in bark cloth, were found in the drawers and ceiling in the office of the acting finance officer at the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Aidat Nandutu.
This forced the NFA prayer group, including some board members, to conduct prayers around the premises.
These are just some of the many cases highlighting the increase in witchcraft at the workplace as employees try to harm workmates, seek favours and power and also clear their way to success as well as seek protection from real or imagined enemies.
Police speaks out
A detective at the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka revealed shocking discoveries as they conducted a search at the Ministry of Public Service.
“We recovered things stuffed under tables and also some strange powder in some of the files,” the detective said. The Police suspect this was done to throw the investigators off the case.
According to Ibn Senkumbi, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, under the Witchcraft Act 1957, witchcraft is a crime punishable by imprisonment not exceeding five years, on conviction.
Threatening someone with death by witchcraft attracts life imprisonment on conviction.
Under a spell
In an interview, Pastor Martin Sempa of Makerere Community Church, says it is desperation driving people into the vice.
Because of this, corporates are being subjected to ridiculous strict instructions and conditions by witchdoctors. Some of the instructions range from carrying the same handbag and wearing only certain clothes, to rejecting hugs or handshakes.
Diana, now a born-again Christian, was desperate for a promotion at work. When she confided in a relative, the relative took her to Kinawataka, a slum area of Kampala, and introduced her to a witchdoctor from Bugweri.
“The witchdoctor convinced me that my colleague at work had bewitched me. He warned me against taking tea in the office. Part of the condition also required that I put on a particular kind of knickers, carry the same handbag, and refuse handshakes or hugs from my colleague at work.”
But the witchdoctor had to first bless the panties by immersing them in a green liquid. She was also given a fetish and told to place it under her boss’s carpet.
At Banda, a witchdoctor confided in Sunday Vision that some employees even bring their appointment letters to him for blessings.
A security guard working with an organisation dealing in environmental issues said they once found a dead rat wrapped in banana fibre in a lady’s handbag.
The matter was taken to the human resource personnel. The lady confessed that it was given to her by a witchdoctor in order to protect herself.
The guard says they have found many weird items like dried chameleons and frogs while searching people’s bags.
He also revealed that there are some people who are so protective when it comes to checking their bags.
“Last year, a senior manager refused us to check her bag. When we forcefully checked it, we were shocked to find a dried snake and coffee beans wrapped in a polythene bag,” he says.
Law, politics not spared
A senior lawyer and member of the Uganda Law Society said they had received cases of some of their colleagues visiting witchdoctors a day to, or moments before going to court to battle a case.
“In some cases, they are given charms to spread on the judges’ seats before the session begins,” the lawyer said.
But it is in the political world that the vice is more entrenched.
Former Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya caused a stir in 2004 when he visited a shrine owned by Hajji Bruhan Katale at Kassewalaga in Masaka district. He asked his ancestors for peace and to grant President Yoweri Museveni a third term in office.
However, it was later alleged that what he was really after was to safeguard his position as the country’s number two after reports of an imminent cabinet reshuffle emerged.
Last year, two Members of Parliament, Evelyn Anite (youth MP, northern) and Peter Ogwang (youth, eastern), camped at Liru Mountain in Koboko to seek blessings from their Kakwa ancestors.
Their visit was part of the preparations for the 2016 general elections. Liru Mountain is found in Lobule sub-county and it is said people go there to receive blessings.
While at the mountain, Anite, who wants to unseat Koboko Woman MP Margaret Baba Diri in the 2016 elections, was taken through different rituals.
“Dear ancestors, here is your daughter Evelyn Anite. She has come to our ancestral home to seek blessings as she prepares for the 2016 general elections where she wants to represent the people of Koboko. Let your blessings be upon her,” Kassim Alumbi the Kakwa cultural leader prayed.
Ogwang wants to unseat Proscovia Alengot in Usuk. Anite and Ogwang were made to drink water that flows from the crater lake on the mountain.
A politician from central Buganda serving his second term in office confessed to being made to bathe in a basin full of concoctions.
Sunday Vision could not confirm this, but an interview with a food vendor also indicated that some of them are made to do strange things to outcompete one another. In a startling interview, Jane a food vendor at Kiseka, said they are sometimes told to mix strange concoctions into the food they cook.
Last year, the Police arrested a woman who was running a restaurant in Kamwokya. The Police were tipped off by her neighbours who had observed her actions for some time.
She confessed that she had visited a witchdoctor after her business started declining. The witchdoctor advised her to use the water she was bathing with to make soup for her clients.
In a related incident in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb, a tea vendor was arrested with a dead rat, which she had pounded into powder. A customer became suspicious when he saw her sprinkle some foreign substance in the tea and alerted the others.
The whole society is infested.