Traditional healers need a shelter to work from

2014-04-05 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG’S herbalists selling traditional remedies on the streets are in dire need of a formal sheltered area from which to work.

The conditions in which they ply their trade are in stark contrast to their Durban counterparts, for whom eThekwini Metro Municipality created a “muthi market” where traders can set up their stalls under shelter — something that also benefits customers seeking treatment with indigenous medicinal herbs.

When Weekend Witness paid a visit to some of these informal traders selling muti along Retief Street near the Sweetwaters taxi rank, they all complained about the conditions in which they worked.

All sorts of herbs, or muthi, can be found at their stalls, which they assemble on the pavement.

A sangoma (traditional healer) Makhosi Buyeleni Mlaba from Camperdown promotes her remedies that cure shingles.

“We also sell our muthi to other traditional healers who rely on us to heal their patients,” she said.

Mlaba said she had been selling her herbs on the street for over 25 years, but believes she could be doing better business if she, and other muthi traders, had shelter to work under.

“We are raising our families from what we make from selling muthi to people. It really does work and we get referrals from those who we have healed.”

Mlaba said the only problem was that they didn’t have a decent place to work.

“When it is hot, we have to endure the heat and during rainy days, we have to close our stalls because we have no shelter — and then those looking for us to help them cannot find us.”

Mlaba said that as a result they lose a lot of business and to remedy the situation the Msunduzi Municipality should build them a shelter like the one the eThekini municipality built in Durban.

Another herbalist, Hleziphi Kheswa from KwaMpumuza, said she had sold muthi on the streets since 2003 after becoming unemployed and that she has been able to raise her children through this income.

“We make more money at month-end because our clients have money then,” said Kheswa.

She said she would really appreciate it if the municipality could improve working conditions by building shelters.

Bonakele Ndlela of Sweet­waters said: “Doing this job keeps food on the table and we are able to send our children to school.

“However, the sun and the rain do not make things any easier because we have no shelter; but it has been my life for more than 20 years.”

A request for information from the Msunduzi Municipality with regard to the provision of shelter for the muthi traders had not been responded to at the time of going to press.

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