UK man becomes a sangoma

2011-06-30 22:36
Komatipoort - An English consultant has graduated as a sangoma in Mpumalanga, three months after flying to South Africa from the United Kingdom.

This week, Thomas Heathfield, 32, a bank consultant from Maidenhead in Berkshire, England, graduated as a sangoma in a ceremony held at Mangweni village near Komatipoort.

"I can’t believe that I've finally completed the training. It was as easy as ABC," said Heathfield, who is also known as Gogo Mndawe.

Gogo Mndawe said it was initially very difficult for him because he didn't understand the local SiSwati language.

"I struggled to hear what my trainer, Gogo Dingani, was telling me, but I finally learned every word she said to me," said Gogo Mndawe.

During the graduation ceremony he was sent on a mission to find a goat's bladder and other body parts that were hidden about 1km from where the ceremony took place.


The new sangoma looked very tired. He was dirty, his hair smelt bad and he had a few open wounds on his hands and legs, but his parents, trainers and villagers ululated as he drank and vomited goats blood as part of the ritual.

He said he trained as sangoma after experiencing a decade of bad luck.

"I have been followed by bad luck for a period of ten years. I lived in shame because I was ignoring my ancestors' calling all along," he said.

Gogo Mndawe found out about sangoma training and Gogo Dingani through his friend Lungile Tsetse, who often visited the UK.

He said he was a single man without a girlfriend, wife or child because of his past bad luck.

"I lost every girlfriend because of bad luck. My ancestors wanted me to respond to their call," he said.

Gogo Mndawe said that during the training he was only allowed to sleep for four hours per night.

He said he would wake up every day at 02:30 to perform a ritual dance called Kuhlehla, in which he went into a spiritual trance.

He also learnt to throw bones and learnt about the uses for different herbs.

"Today I'm a sangoma and I love South Africa. I want to buy a house in Cape Town where I am going to build a thatched room.

"I'm also hoping to marry a South African woman, whether she's black or white, as long as she understands my calling and my ancestors are happy about her," said Gogo Mndawe.


Tsetse, who helped Gogo Mndawe find a trainer, said she was happy that he had finally graduated.

"I am a white sangoma who graduated last year and I was happy to bring Thomas here. He has finally graduated and has joined the rest of the sangomas in the world," said Tsetse.

According to Gogo Mndawe's parents, Ally and Brian Heathfield, becoming a sangoma was the best thing to happen to their son.

"We now realise the reason why we sent our son to this country to train as a sangoma. This is a completely different cultural practice but we are happy that our son managed to combine it with ours," said the mother, Ally.

Gogo Mndawe's trainers, Gogo Dingani and her husband Gogo Xindlovana, have trained more about 20 white sangomas and 500 black sangomas at their home in Mangweni.

The two are members of the Traditional Healers Organisation and their graduates come from as far as Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe as well as all the nine provinces of South Africa.
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