India had its Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Her fame over her good works spread to the four corners of the globe.
Uganda also has its ‘Mother Josephina of Kampala’ whose good works have spread to all corners of the country.
But her background is a different from Mother Theresa. Uganda’s Mother Josephina, popularly known as Mama Fina, is what Christians and their converts call a witch doctor.
Mama Fina is the president of the Uganda Traditional Healers Association. All the witch doctors in the country - and there are tens of thousands of them - are accountable to her.
If you do not to toe her line you are risking trouble with the law, because it is her association that is recognised by the state. And for her part, she has been campaigning vigorously against criminal acts by traditional healers, especially human sacrifice like child murders and attacks on albinos.
The other difference between Mama Fina and Mother Theresa is that while the latter led a life of chastity, Mama Fina is anything but. And she has a thing for Muslim men.
With the exception of her first husband, all the other guys she has dated or married are Muslims.
But, as our former Kampala city Mayor Hajji Nasser Sebaggala once put it when being probed about a liaison he had with a local musician, “those are our private parts” (presumably he meant private affairs), which should not be for public discussion.
But on the charity front, Mama Fina is a top contender for being named Uganda’s Mother Theresa. Many people who fall into real trouble which requires financial rescue call on Mama Fina to intervene, and she often does. The list of interventions from Mama Fina’s big heart is endless.
You could start with hundreds of girls who are trafficked to the Middle East with promises of lucrative jobs but end up as sex slaves. Many commit suicide when they fail to escape.
Those who make it back to Uganda are extremely stigmatized, dangerously sick and with nobody to turn to. They are advised to try Mama Fina.
She takes them in, foots their medical bills and as they recover, starts on counselling. When they stabilise, she helps them resettle and finds them jobs.
Another category of Mama Fina’s beneficiaries are the so-called celebrities when their star burns out, and in Kampala, it does so quickly. Today the crowds follow you because of a hit song but tomorrow your next songs fails to make it far beyond the recording studio.
The debts start piling, as does the rent. The substances you used to enhance performance become food and when you cannot afford them, you resort to cheap liquor. From the gutter, Mama Fina picks yesterday’s stars, gets them medical treatment, psychological and financial rehabilitation, gradually restoring their self-worth and esteem.
Sometimes it is political failures who run to Mama Fina. Competitive politics can be an expensive affair. Only one wins the post and others who spent millions bribing voters unsuccessfully end up in danger of going to civil jail over debt. Those who go to Mama Fina are bailed out.
That is Mama Fina, the philanthropist who did not make it to the list of the heroes who received medals on March eighth Women’s Day.