The Traditional Health Organisation (THO) is demanding that government create a ministry for traditional health practitioners.
A memorandum handed to the office of the presidency at the Union Buildings in Pretoria yesterday, and accepted by public liaison officer, Eugene Mthetwa, reads: “We want to know when traditional healers and patients will . . . feel being part of a democratic South Africa . . .
“We demand that government start taking issues seriously and consult with us on a regular basis . . . we demand to see this commitment in simple written language 14 days after this action.”
The organisation says the Traditional Healers Act of 2007 “is only good on paper” and want to force government to acknowledge and implement it immediately.
“We feel that government has failed to protect the practice of traditional healing which has been exploited and undermined for many years,” said THO national co-ordinator, Phepsile Maseko.
She said there has been an increase in the number of Western companies and researchers coming into the country to use traditional knowledge but that traditional healers don’t get compensated.
They also demanded a review of the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957 which categorises “every spiritual person as satanic or practising witchcraft”.
In August 2009, the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) approved the law and recommended it to the ministery of justice and constitutional development after the SALRC’s preliminary investigation in 2008 in accordance with the South African Law Reform Commission Act 19 of 1973.
Upon signing the memorandum, Mthetwa said: “I can sincerely assure you that this memorandum will reach the hands of the president.”
Discrimination against healers is rife and they blamed this on “the negative attitude and disrespect that health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and his department show” towards traditional health care.
According to the THO, traditional medicine contributes about R3 billion to the country’s GDP and 70% of South Africans use traditional medicine as an alternative to Western medicine.
Recent research from the World Health Organisation suggests that in some Asian and African countries, 80% of the population depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.
Hundreds of THO members and leaders from across the country joined the picket at the Union Buildings.
The THO represents several traditional associations, has over 39 000 members countrywide and has branches in Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana.