Health: traditional healers demand recognition too

2011-05-12 00:00

AS the world commemorates World Nurses Day today, traditional healers from around the country picketed at the Union Buildings demanding recognition from government.

A memorandum outlining, among other things, the implementation of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007 — which allows healers freedom to practise their art of healing with respect and dignity — will be handed over to presidency officials.

KZN spokesperson for the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO), Zanele Sithole, said the Act “has only been good on paper” as government has since failed to put in place mechanisms that would allow traditional healers to enjoy their rights.

“In our conference last month we decided that enough is enough, that this matter cannot be left unattended.

“Our rights as traditional healers are overlooked by government, despite the verbal claim that our contribution in the health system is valued.

“What we want now is a council that will regulate traditional healing practice and we want to be included when our medicines are tested by the medical research council. In 1977 the World Health Organisation [WHO] resolved to recognise traditional medicine worldwide, so we expect to be treated as part of the health sector. For that to be a reality, government should stop dragging its feet in implementing the 2007 Act,” said Sithole.

THO national co-ordinator and former technical advisor to WHO on traditional medicine, Phephsile Maseko, said the act has failed to dignify traditional healing.

“When the Act was passed four years ago, healers felt it would bring needed healing, joy and dignity to the profession, but that has since not happened,” Maseko said.

“We now want the government to implement the regulations of the Act, which include the formation of a council that will regulate traditional healers separately from the health department. We also want a traditional healers ministry to be formed,” Maseko said.

Healers also demanded recognition of employees’ sick notes from “traditional health practitioners”, funding and protection for research and development programmes on traditional medicine, and a review of the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act which categorises every “spiritual person” as “satan” or “practising witchcraft”.

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