By Yonela Mgwali
Black South Africans believe in African traditional healers and many fall victims to bogus healers.
Traditional healers are practitioners of African traditional medicine; they fulfil important cultural roles in their communities including healing people of emotional and spiritual illnesses and counteracting fears of witchcraft. Some healers, however, exploit their clients, partly due to people wanting quick-fix solutions to their problems.
Hlumelo Mfene of Duncan Village says she lost her cellphone when she hosted a traditional ceremony. She was advised by friends to consult a traditional doctor from Uganda who has a surgery on Oxford Street.
Mfene said: “This doctor asked me who I suspected had stolen my cellphone and gave me a needle to stab the mirror and told me the suspect would die within a week.”
Mfene said she was charged R2000 but the consultation did not bring back her cell phone, which she had bought for R2400.00. Mfene says she no longer has confidence in traditional healing as she doesn’t trust any healer.
Nosango Booi, a traditional healer from King William’s Town says that due to the negativity associated with traditional healers, they hardly get any patients and are struggling to make a living.
“These fake traditional healers ruin our reputations, they cannot even heal people properly, but they charge people large amounts of money.”
When one walks down Oxford Street in East London there are always people distributing flyers that advertise these doctors. The flyers promise to help with marriage problems, help with court cases, penis enlargement, bringing money to your home, vaginal tightening and firmer breasts and to bring together separated lovers.
Practitioner and leader of African Indigenous Religion Dr Nokuzola Mndende said: “Traditional healers don’t have to advertise themselves; it’s a calling. For people to know about a certain healer, they will know by word of mouth, by the people who have been healed by that traditional healer.”
“Traditional healers undergo training before they can be practitioners and therefore receive certificates to show that they are skilled to use specific medication,” Dr Mndende said.
These conmen charge a minimum of R1500 for a consultation claiming to have healing powers.
Nombuyiselo Mahini, also a victim to such a scam said: “I was charged an upfront fee for consultation and when I walked into the room it was dark and there was a very funny smell that almost caused me dizziness. The healer promised to help me get a better position at work instead I got fired by my boss. I truly regret going to those people.”
Unfortunately there is no legislation against these scams.
Phephsile Maseko, national coordinator at the Association of Traditional Healers, said: “Not many laws are developed about our trades, but the Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007. Hence these people get away with anything.”
Attempts to interview the doctors who come from all over Africa including Nigeria and Uganda failed.
The public should be wary of these crooks who claim to be traditional health practitioners that have healing powers. They should ask the healer to produce a certificate that shows that they are qualified to practice traditional healing or are registered with the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa. People can register a complaint with the Council if they are not happy with the services.