How Sekuru Banda be­came rich and fa­mous

Dr Kamwelo Banda, the Malaw­ian­born, Hararebased tra­di­tional healer, herbal­ist and spir­i­tu­al­ist, is with­out ques­tion the man-of-the­mo­ment.

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Tendai Chara

UN­TIL only some few months ago, the charis­matic tra­di­tional healer was vir­tu­ally un­known, with a hand­ful of peo­ple, if any, seek­ing his ser­vices.

In a typ­i­cal rags-to-riches fash­ion, Sekuru Banda, as the tra­di­tional healer is now fondly known as, has risen to be­come an em­i­nent mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

His ser­vices are be­ing sought by peo­ple of all classes, races and re­li­gious be­liefs.

A me­dia on­slaught by Dr Banda, in which he fre­quently fea­tures in the Press, is seem­ingly pay­ing div­i­dends.

It can be ar­gued that Sekuru Banda’s me­te­oric rise was prob­a­bly ig­nited by an ar­ti­cle that ap­peared in our sis­ter weekly ver­nac­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion, Kwayedza.

Ti­tled “Gudo pfacha pas­mall­house”, the ar­ti­cle grabbed the imag­i­na­tion of many and be­came a ma­jor talk­ing point. What fol­lowed was a me­dia frenzy in which the tra­di­tional healer in­stantly be­came a much sought-af­ter ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pro­gramme guest.

His fame has so far spread far and wide, with clients now mak­ing the great trek from other South­ern African coun­tries.

Sekuru Banda is now clearly over­sub­scribed with some of the clients spend­ing days with­out get­ting an op­por­tu­nity to meet the fa­mous healer.

Claims that he can per­form seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble tasks such as bring­ing back lost lovers, pun­ish­ing cheat­ing part­ners and thieves, among oth­ers, seem to have en­chanted South­ern Africa.Rid­ing on the wave of the newly found fame and for­tune, Sekuru Banda ap­pears to have im­mersed him­self in the flam­boy­ance that comes with fame and rich pick­ings.

In ear­lier photographs that were snapped when the tra­di­tional healer was still strug­gling, Dr Banda was of­ten adorned in drab and unin­spir­ing out­fits.

Last week, The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety vis­ited one of the most sought-af­ter re­li­gious icons.

Un­like in the past, Sekuru Banda has joined the breed of flam­boy­ant faith and tra­di­tional heal­ers. Dark glasses, stylish head­gear and ex­pen­sive leather jack­ets are now his trade­mark. Add to that, a horde of bulky body­guards, per­sonal as­sis­tants and hang­ers-on are now a per­ma­nent fea­ture in Dr Banda’s life. One would have been for­given for con­clud­ing that the tra­di­tional healer is ei­ther a movie ac­tor or rhumba mu­si­cian. Ap­pear­ing glam­ourous and charm­ing for a typ­i­cal tra­di­tional healer, the herbal­ist is now trendy and fash­ion-con­scious.

Sit­ting au­thor­i­ta­tively on a trendy chair, the spir­i­tu­al­ist ex­uded charm and con­fi­dence.

He was quick to ex­plain the sud­den change in ap­pear­ance.

“The spir­its that op­er­ate in me does not want me to be dirty. I have to be smart, that is part of the con­di­tions,” Sekuru Banda said. Driv­ing an ex­pen­sive Range Rover, Sekuru Banda is set to move into a 78-roomed man­sion in Bor­row­dale soon.

Ac­cord­ing to the tra­di­tional healer, the mas­sive com­plex, which he said will serve as both his res­i­dence and as a ho­tel, is set to be fin­ished any­time soon.He con­fided that an­other 31-roomed man­sion is tak­ing shape in Harare’s leafy sub­urb of Glen Lorne.

He re­vealed that to­gether, the mas­sive struc­tures are ex­pected to be worth around $2,7 mil­lion.

Sim­ple math­e­mat­ics show that as long as the clients are still vis­it­ing him in droves, com­plet­ing the struc­tures will be a very easy task.

For one to have the op­por­tu­nity to con­sult the tra­di­tional healer, they have to fork out US$60. With Sekuru Banda at­tend­ing to no less than 500 clients every day, this trans­lates into him pock­et­ing a cool $30 000 every day.

Those with “ma­jor prob­lems” fork out more money.

And the num­ber of clients that are vis­it­ing him is ris­ing, with a large num­ber be­ing turned away every day.

Mar­ried with four kids, Sekuru Banda chron­i­cled how it all be­gan.

“Heal­ing runs in the blood. This is a fam­ily thing. Our clan is feared in Malawi where my late fa­ther was a prom­i­nent healer. I don’t even re­mem­ber when I started heal­ing peo­ple since I was very young then,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Sekuru Banda, 70 per­cent of his clients’ prob­lems are solved in­stantly, with 20 per­cent of the prob­lems get­ting solved af­ter a short pe­riod. He pegged his fail­ure rate at 10 per­cent.

Sekuru Banda says apart from fail­ing to rid clients of the HIV virus, the only other thing that he can­not do is to raise peo­ple from the dead.

He said on a weekly ba­sis, he re­ceives 20 tra­di­tional heal­ers from South­ern African and teaches them the ropes.

Lo­cal church lead­ers are said to Ni­code­mously seek the ser­vices of the tra­di­tional healer as they hope to in­crease the num­ber of their con­gre­gants.

Hail­ing from Man­gochi in Malawi, Sekuru Banda said he re­fined his heal­ing skills at the Ghana Herbal Med­i­cal Stu­dents’ As­so­ci­a­tion (GHEMSA) in­sti­tute in Ku­masi.

Although he had ini­tially said he went to school only up to Form Three, the tra­di­tional healer later claimed that he is a qual­i­fied med­i­cal doc­tor.

Sekuru Banda also has an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for so­cial me­dia and fea­tures there reg­u­larly.

A prac­tis­ing Mus­lim, he claimed that he re­ceives close to 20 000 What­sApp mes­sages every day.

The af­fa­ble tra­di­tional healer also talked about the down­stream busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties that have been cre­ated by his ser­vices. “If you go into town, there are com­muter om­nibuses that ferry peo­ple from Si­mon Muzenda Street right to my doorstep. I also gather that every day, more than 20 peo­ple who will be wait­ing for their chance to see me, stay at ho­tels in town.

“On the other side, we now have fewer thieves in Harare since most thieves are now afraid of my pun­ish­ments,” he added.

Among some of the char­i­ta­ble work that he cham­pi­ons is a so­cial soc­cer team - Dhud­hudha Stars - a team he says was named af­ter his son Nour­ride’s nick­name.

Whilst some church lead­ers are strug­gling to at­tract more con­gre­gants, Sekuru Banda seem to be en­joy­ing fun in the sun.

A pen­sive Dr Banda in his con­sult­ing room

Scribe meets tra­di­tional healer . . . Tendai Chara shakes hands with Dr Banda at the con­clu­sion of the in­ter­view

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