News / Africa

South African Traditional Healers Face Increased Competition

South African Traditional Healers Face Increased Competitioni
X
February 25, 2013 3:27 PM
In South Africa, traditional healers known, as sangomas, are deeply entrenched in the culture. So much so that a 2012 court case affirmed that workers can be allowed extended absences to consult a sangoma - much the way sick leave is used to see a doctor. Sangomas are believed to cure various physical and spiritual ills, protect livestock and to divine the future. But how do these traditional healers maintain their influence in modern society and modern cities like Johannesburg? Emilie Iob went to find out and has this report for VOA News from Johannesburg.
In South Africa, traditional healers, known as sangomas, are deeply entrenched in the culture.
In South Africa, traditional healers known, as sangomas, are deeply entrenched in the culture. So much so that a 2012 court case affirmed that workers can be allowed extended absences to consult a sangoma, much the way sick leave is used to see a doctor. Sangomas are believed to cure various physical and spiritual ills, protect livestock and to divine the future. But how do these traditional healers maintain their influence in modern society and modern cities like Johannesburg? 

Traditional healers

Grace Bavumile burns incense to call the ancestors. She recieves several patients a week at her home, some seeking a cure for body pains and others hoping she can bring them luck or a job.

Bavumile has been a traditional healer, or a “sangoma”, for 12 years. When she began practicing there were few sangomas in this city, but now there are several on each street.

"We do have great relationships. Though there are some differences because of the place where we grew up, or different schools. So we are not performing the same," said Bavumile. "We usually talk about difficulties, yes the difficulties of being a sangoma, and so many things. But most of the time where we met, we talk about the field."

It is estimated that South Africa has about 200,000 traditional healers and more than 30 million people seek their counsel.
 
But in modern times, some fringe elements have tarnished their reputation.  South African authorities say there have been 300 murders in the last 10 years allegedly for body parts to use in traditional potions - known as muti.

Rebuilding reputation

In order to protect their image, sangomas created the Traditional Healer Organization, known as THO. Launched in the 1970s, it does lobbying and also trains and teaches new sangomas on the ethics of the job.

These new recruits are learning about physiology, HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted diseases. Program manager Thlakele Shongwe helped create the code of conduct - which he says protects sangomas and their clients. “Yes, it's very important to protect their rights, because traditional healers are not really recognised by communities, by the government itself. So they are victimised, sometimes they are called witches... when in actual fact, we know that traditional healers are very important in the society because that is where we get healing, that is where people get counseling,” explained Shongwe.
 
Recognizing the cultural importance of sangomas, the government created regulatory guidelines in 2003 in the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill to protect both the public and the practice. But it has yet to be fully implemented.
 
Sangomas also face increasing competition from Western medicine as general health care has been made more accessible to more South Africans in the last 20 years.
 
Most sangomas are no longer able to earn a living from their practice alone. For 20 year old Rachel - who comes from a family of traditional healers - that could lead to blending traditional healing with Western medicine.  “I'm planning to go to school, because I think I'm still young, I won't sit at home and wait for patients. I was thinking of doing a degree in biomedicine," she added. "Because I think it's quite a good combination.”

A recent poll says 70 percent of South Africans still visit sangomas on a regular basis.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid