Vicky Ntetema is a freelance Tanzanian reporter who contributes to the BBC World Service. She has been working for the BBC since 1991.
Ntetema began investigating the brutal killings of albinos by witchdoctors in late 2007 after hearing about four murders of albino Tanzanians that occurred within three months. Albinos and their families were being murdered so that their dismembered bodies could be used by witchdoctors for potions made out of their hair, legs and arms. Customers were told the potions would bring them good fortune.
While reporting undercover on the issue in July 2008, Ntetema was using a tape recorder that slipped out from underneath her clothing during an interview, and a local police officer informed witchdoctors that she was there to report on the murders. Ntetema promptly left the interview but has been receiving death threats ever since. For example, one text message sent to Ntetema’s mobile phone read: “What have you done now? Watch your back.”
Despite the threats, Ntetema continued reporting on witchdoctors, posing as a businesswoman seeking consultation to learn their habits and beliefs. Witchdoctors are especially dangerous because they hold powerful positions in African traditional society; they often use hired killers and are protected by local police.
For her safety, Ntetema regularly sleeps in different locations and changes her routes to and from work to avoid being followed by authorities. She travels with a body guard and occasionally wears a burka to hide her identity.
Ntetema has left Tanzania twice because of the threats against her. The BBC asked that Ntetema travel to London in 2008 for her safety; she returned to Tanzania after about a month but then went to Kenya briefly to escape increasing threats. She currently remains in Tanzania and continues her investigations in the most dangerous areas of the country. News editors at the BBC have asked Ntetema to keep a low profile; she still provides them with stories and research, but she is not able to file reports using her own name.
In 2009, the first prosecutions of the albino killings took place. Ntetema traveled in disguise to a rural area of Tanzania to observe the court ruling. Despite her attempts to remain undercover, she was recognized and asked to leave. She refused to depart and instead took photos of the trial so that the BBC would have documentation of the event.
According to the BBC, some 170 witchdoctors have been arrested for albino killings. In a piece she wrote for the BBC in July 2008 about exposing the witchdoctors, Ntetema said, “Mine is just one life, compared to the several thousand people living with albinism in the country.”
Ntetema was born May 22, 1958, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.