Traditional healers equipped with medical skills

Some of the traditional healers who attended a one-week programme aimed at improving their skills.

Traditional healers and amaxhwele (herbalists) are often ridiculed by society and in many cases labelled as witchdoctors.

However, the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO), which advocates for the traditional healers, ingcibi (traditional surgeons) and ababelekisi (traditional birth assistants) are stressing that the key role and function of their members is to provide healthcare services to the public.

The organisation held a graduation ceremony in Langa on Thursday March 8 for their members who attended a week-long leadership training programme.

The group of 16 traditional healers were taught about the importance of leadership, respecting the image of their craft and the use of traditional herbs in curing people.

The programme also trained them to spot the symptoms of TB, high blood pressure, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), malaria and diarrhoea.

The traditional healers were urged to work closely with the clinics and hospital and to refer patients to these health facilities whenever they spotted symptoms of those diseases.

The programme gave the traditional healers information that could better their services for the benefit of their patients.

Traditional healer Ntombi’emhlophe Mbatha, said they were taught basic first aid skills.

She said they were taught how to differentiate between which diseases could be healed by them and which needed to be seen to at the clinics and hospitals.

Ms Mbatha said the programme was important in the upliftment of the traditional healers and restoring their dignity in the community.

She said traditional healers were often neglected by the government.

“We want our members to be able to work with the department of health. We are all doing this because we want to make a huge statement that we care about the healthcare of our patients. We are often accused of not doing referrals. We have been given a special gift of healing people and we want to assure people that we are doing exactly that,” she said.

Senior promoter of the Traditional Healers Organisation, Sigruzuba Masumpa, said there was still a perception that traditional healers were witchdoctors.

He said the core aim of the organisation was to protect the image of traditional healers.

They want traditional healers to be recognised as healthcare practitioners.

He said Christianity and other forms of religion have hugely undermined their practice.

He said traditional healers who are in their initiation phases are often referred to as people who have demons by certain churches while others ridicule the cultural practices of Africans.

“We are sometimes called devil worshipers. We get directions from the ancestors of how we mix herbs and how to heal people. That power we get from there. And we have to honour them. Our customs and cultural practices are also undermined,” he said.

Mr Masumpa accused the government of failing to protect traditional healers and conducting workshops to empower them.

He admitted that there are bogus “traditional healers” who used the practice to deceive people and make money.

He said the programme also preached about cleanliness.