Traditional healers in the North West province say they do not feel safe whilst they practise because they have not been offered any personal protective equipment (PPE) by the government. 

President of the Dingaka Association of North West, Annah Rabotapi tells Health-e News that a lack of PPE puts patients and healers at risk of contracting coronavirus. 

“We have not received any PPE, such as sanitisers and face masks, at our consultation rooms and this puts our personal wellbeing as well as that of our patients in danger. Doctors and nurses have received PPE but we feel that we are being left out. If my patient is not wearing a facemask or I don’t have a sanitiser available to offer them, this may result in further spread of the virus. As traditional healers we feel that we are being left out, or that our trade is not taken seriously.” 

Traditional practices neglected during lockdown 

Rabotapi says in order to communicate with ancestors, traditional healers require the use of tobacco products such as snuff and home-brewed beer. She says they cannot access these products at retail stores, and that their work is compromised and made more difficult as a result. 

“We cannot communicate with our ancestors because snuff and traditional beer have been banned under lockdown regulations. This poses a serious challenge because we cannot treat our patients the way we want to. When we throw the bones, we need these products as a vehicle to communicate with those in the spiritual realm. All the shops where we used to buy these products turn us back because the owners say they do not want to break the law.” 

Left out by government 

Traditional healers believe that they are being left out in the fight against Covid-19, and that the government has side-lined their immense knowledge of herbs, tonics, and natural remedies, which could meaningfully contribute to eradicating the pandemic. 

“There is nobody coming to us and asking how we as traditional healers can help to fight this pandemic. It is important that traditional healers from all provinces are consulted so that we can give our input. Traditional medicine should not be undermined because it has been used for centuries to heal all forms of ailments,” says Rabotapi. 

She adds: “Modern science alone cannot be taken as the only method in which we can fight the pandemic. All sections of the medical society should be brought in so that we can save our nation.” 

Beware of bogus healers 

However, on the other end of the spectrum lies predatory healers who claim to have found ‘cures’ for coronavirus. Currently, there is no cure for the virus, according to the World Health Organisation, and the National Department of Health. 

Kenneth Morweng, a traditional healer from Zeerust in the North West, warns South Africans to be on the lookout for bogus traditional healers, as well as healers who flout the lockdown regulations. 

“I would like to urge all South Africans to be careful of traditional healers who claim to have a cure for the virus. There is no traditional healer in the country who has found a cure. My message to all traditional healers is to abide by all lockdown regulations and refer all patients who show symptoms of the coronavirus to a nearby healthcare centre. It is important that everybody washes their hands regularly, maintains social distancing and stays at home because this virus is spread by people. 

The North West health department says they will be looking at how they can assist traditional healers so that they are able to carry out their duties efficiently. – Health-e News