Why is SA not looking into using 'indigenous herbs' to fight Covid-19, asks Cosatu president

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Cosatu President Zingiswa Losi.
Cosatu President Zingiswa Losi.
Deaan Vivier
  • Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi has apparently contradicted her own federation's position on the swift roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Losi called for another look at African indigenous herbs that could be administered against Covid-19.
  • South Africa will get a million doses of Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month. 

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi has joined a growing number of ANC and alliance leaders voicing scepticism about the benefits of the use of Western medicines in fighting Covid-19, saying South Africa should be manufacturing its own vaccines.

"Some of the vaccines leave a side-effect, but as African people we have our indigenous herbs. Are we not putting forward these issues as African women to liberate South Africa and the African continent?" she told the ANC Women's League's Charlotte Maxeke intergenerational dialogue on Thursday, during the debate on Covid-19 vaccines.

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Cosatu earlier this week slammed the government for apparently botching negotiations to secure vaccines for South Africa's population, but Losi said it was not her intention to contradict the federation's message.

She told News24 in an interview that she only intended to pose a question to her fellow panelists at the discussion about looking into indigenous African cures for the pandemic. She said she referred to conventional medicines used to treat Covid-19 in general as having side-effects, and not just the vaccines. 

"As Africa, we haven't come up with a vaccine," she said. "We will be procuring it from the rest of the world."

She said:

"Any medicine can have side-effects, but the indigenous herbs that we get directly from the soil, we can use them. How far have we got? We have to manufacture our own vaccine in this country, but if the time comes, where are we with using our indigenous plants?"
 

She said laboratories should start looking into indigenous cures and use its cooperation with traditional healers to do so. 

"Are you just including traditional healers [in the government programme for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic] to help distribute the Western medicines, or shall we develop our own medicines," she said.

Losi wore an ancestral cloth during her brief appearance at the women's league meeting, and told News24 that she is on a "journey" to becoming a sangoma, but could not say on what path it would lead her. 

In South Africa, there is uMhlonyane (Artemesia), which has been touted as a possible treatment for Covid-19. However, laboratory tests about the effectiveness of uMhlonyane have been inconclusive. 

Despite Malagasy President Andry Rajoelina touting a drink based on the plant as a miracle cure, Madagascar has reported almost 18 000 cases of Covid-19 infections so far, and 262 deaths.

In a statement, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said: "Failure to roll out vaccines early, whilst other countries move with speed will see those countries emerge from the pandemic and open up their economies, while isolating South Africa by closing their borders to travel and trade with South Africa. This will be a fatal blow to our fragile economy."

He also mentioned health workers, many of whom belong to Cosatu-affiliated unions. 

"The health system is also imploding, with frontline workers getting infected and dying at an alarming rate. The nation simply cannot afford this incompetence a day longer, not at the cost of thousands of workers' lives."

Pamla could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday announced that South Africa will get a million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from India by the end of this month. 

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