Mr. Solly Nduku is the Traditional Health Practitioners (THP) Sector leader and Deputy Chairperson for the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), Civil Society Forum

“We call people to come forward and ask clarity-seeking questions and get more education to make informed decisions to go and vaccinate. I say this because we also vaccinated them in our ways, such as that scarification is a vaccine in our own way.”

Moderator: Tian Johnson

Complied by Vivienne Naidoo 


Webinar Recordings & Supplementary Materials


Mr Solly Nduku is the Traditional Health Practitioners (THP) Sector leader and Deputy Chairperson for the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), Civil Society Forum. Mr Nduku has a wealth of experience in traditional health practices and works in various capacities, mainly in the public sector, in decision-making and strategic capacities. He has served as a provincial chairperson for the organisation NUUPAATHPSA in the Eastern Cape. He has served as a member of the SANAC Civil Society Forum representing the African Traditional Health Practitioners sector since 2009. He serves as an NEC member of the National Unitary Professional Association for African Traditional Health Practitioners in South Africa.


*This section contains a transcribed account of the Question-and-Answer Session*

Is there a place for traditional health practitioners in the mainstream public health sector? Do you feel that mainstreaming has happened adequately?

It becomes imperative to remember that the evolution of the health provision globally, and even biomedicine or the allopathic health medicine has been developed on traditional medicine during the 20th century. Therefore, that means that traditional forms of healing exist as far back as our existence as human beings. But over time, I think traditional medicine has suffered, as I’ve already highlighted the aspects that relate to the colonisation and the strength of the spirituality or the basis of traditional medicine, non-spirituality, which made it a target. For those who aimed at breaking the spine and the backbone of an African man, there was no way that they could not seek to demonise this holistic healing method. But it’s also important to understand in a broader context what we’re talking about when we talk of traditional medicine, especially in the African context, that we are talking of a holistic approach in the form of healing.  We’re talking of healing in terms of nature, and we’ll still be talking in terms of healing in terms of the environment.  In terms of healing, we’re talking about spirituality, medicine, psycho and social support. So that’s the holistic approach that we are talking of. In applying our practice in the x, we are not encouraging where we consult a person as an individual, but we always encouraged to consult a person as part of the family and their family as part of the broader society. Because we believe that in our practice, when we look at that holistic approach, we would understand the contribution of a human species and the nature and contribution of the nature of Mother Nature in the social and health and well-being of individuals. So in the African context, of course, South African context, based on the traditional practitioners Act Number 23 of 2007, I would refer to for now. Because this is one of the major milestones, which has been achieved as we evolved to the struggles passed from generation to generation. And I, again, I’m humbled to have the privilege of being amongst those who have been part of the struggle prior. The invention of the Act but also not just to be part but also to be part of the soldiers at an early age, who participated in ensuring that such a piece of legislation is delivered with its limitations. It has been a major milestone because, during the dawn of our democracy, we had to bring out something which, over the years, we have identified. There are shortcomings in that, but that at least it has set a premise of recognising at least some of the categories about four categories of traditional health practitioners in our country, being The Diviners who are are normally referred to as a Sangoma. The second category being is Amaxhwele or Amagedla or Ngaka Tshitsha in ISisetho, that is herbalist, Iingcibi or Babolotsi is the third category being those that are referred to in terms of the traditional surgeons, but holistically in the African context, we are referring to those who are involved in the initiation of the young boy and the girl child into adulthood or manhood. The fourth category is the traditional birth attendants, who are involved in reproductive health Ababethisi and Abamiseli. There is another category, which we have fought and struggled that it be recognised as well, i.e. spiritual healers or faith healers. But because of the legislative processes, that category could not be inserted into the current legislation. As a sector of traditional health practitioners and the Freedom Fighters for recognition, we are still pursuing that that sector is incorporated because I think there was a need to conduct intense research. This work that should have been done by the interim council, which he has not managed to do up until his term expired, because part of the primary brief as per the parliament decision, in terms of enacting the Act was that the interim council would amongst others do intensive research when it comes to this particular category. So that it can recommend to parliament and the amendment to the legislation that such a category can be incorporated. So when you are talking of traditional health practitioners and their role and the role in the healthcare delivery system, that’s what we are talking about. But important is that the role of traditional health practitioners in public health is something that is not even a question that we should ask because traditional health practitioners played, and still they play, they’re still playing and remain playing that role, which is a critical role in the health delivery system of their communities at a primary level.  Not only at a primary health care level, but rather both in preventive, promotive and curative aspects of health. Therefore, it becomes key that they work side by side, together with other health practitioners being the biometric and allied professionals in both aspects, preventive, promotive, and curative. But also, recognition and mutual respect need to be further strengthened and promoted amongst these actual health providers. But also that cannot be achieved only through dialogues. But actually, there should be some form of legislated regulation to formalise such mutual respect and recognition. There are a number of pieces of legislation that need to be reviewed and repealed, like the National Health Act. It needs to be reviewed because there are pieces of legislation in this country that we also need to recognise that is a self-defeating a two-hour course, in the sense that whilst we’re saying all these forms are the two sides of the three sides of the health delivery system must work together must collaborate. Still, the other legislation pieces make it illegal for the two sides to practice side by side.  The biomedical are not allowed to actually in terms of the legislation that exists. They can have their own places of practice close by or within the proximity of allied health professionals or traditional health practitioners. So there’s that process that we need to take seriously as a country; if we mean real transformation and change that we need to embark on serious legislative reforms that will seek to render that the traditional health protections is actually developed, actually promoted and advocated for, and the human rights are not hindered. Because people in terms of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they’ve got a right to health. However, they still have a right to choose the nature and type of health services they receive. But if you look in terms of the legislation that we have, in a way, they silently seek to dictate as to what people must choose if those pieces of legislations are not reviewed. So there is a need for a more holistic in health and human beings to ensure that we encourage that there should be mutual recognition. There should be a referral system, not a one-sided referral system where practitioners refer people to hospitals and clinics today, the two-way referral system. But it’s important to appreciate the good work done thus far by the government, ensuring that practitioners are part of the legislation and policies of the clinic committees; they are part of hospital boards. But one of the things that we need to have also to look at as a setup is the capacitation of our people, so that they understand their role in those clinic committees, and also those hospital boards so that their role is just not about four, six, actually ticking the box signing register, adding two numbers, but they must understand that their role is a product of transformation. And also, their role is to ensure that they pursue transformation agenda in that process. And again, I want to emphasise that it’s a problem if they go there as individuals. So accountability, accountability is key; hence it’s important that the unity of the sector should not be a question of fallacy because our sector cannot be liberated if people would want to be excited as individuals and sell in these platforms, and take a mandate from their pillows and report to their beds, it’s important that like any other profession, we are part of our own professional association, where we engage deliberately over these issues. So that in whatever space that we get into, we carry a mandate of a collective. And when we lack power, we go back and regain strength from the collective, which will make us soldier on and move forward.

What are the top two strategic things that we as civil society need to do to accelerate the decolonisation of the space?

I will just steal from the words of the struggle icon Tata Madiba.  I recall that at some point when he was addressing a rally in the Eastern Cape in the then Transkei at the then Independence stadium in the then Umtata town, which was then referred to as Independence Stadium. A group of disillusioned people went to the stadium. They were carrying placards. Unapologetically, Tata Madiba took the podium without seeking permission. And in his address quote, he said, Please take down those placards, go and organise yourselves, formulate yourselves into civic movements, civic organisations, and come as an organised formation. We sit around the table and discuss and find the solution together on your issues, close quote. And my point is that, you know, our sector of traditional health practitioners I want to stay to this, and I’m not ashamed of saying it.  It’s one of the sectors, which has been infiltrated by a high level of opportunism and greed.  And again, that actually destructive force has permeated in a sector our sector in various ways, because you would not find the sense to say. This community has been exploited by colonialism by apartheid and all forms, and you will find that there are people who feel excited by being individuals. They think that they can prosper and succeed if they are individuals. So that tells you that it is a high level of the colonisation of the mind. We might be out of the colonial systems in terms of politics. We might be out of the apartheid system in terms of the political and electoral system. But in terms of the system of the mind, that is still deep in our minds. As individuals, I think about my own popularity, I think about being famous, if I can actually appear in every magazine recognised as a great iNyanga (Healer or Practitioner), I think all is well. But that is meaningless because it can be destroyed within a day. It is important that a sector of traditional practitioners not be apologetic for having professional associations. Like other professions, if you are talking of our biomedical counterparts in South Africa, have the South African Medical Association, a major body for them. There might also be another one of which I cannot recall now. If you go to our counterparts, they’ve got to disarm the Ginoza. They dishonour the South African Nursing Association so that whatever they pro approach to their struggles. They don’t approach their struggles as individuals. They approach their struggles as a collective. But it does not add to that. It also talks to the narrative of development on how they develop their sector, how they preserve their sector, how they protect their sector, how they ensure that elements that seek to destroy the integrity of their sector are protected. So the biggest question that everyone will say traditional practitioners are not united. But the additional effort knows how to ensure that quacks and charlatans don’t intrude on your space. Certainly, we won’t be old enough to say if we’re not organised. Hence, one call that I’m still making is to say, in our country, let us make sure that there are major professional associations. There might be multiple. Still, major professional associations seek to represent the voice of traditional health practitioners so that when they engage whoever they engage in that unison, because of all the efforts SAHPRA will exploit us, big pharmaceutical industries will use our knowledge and get rich out of our knowledge. They will remain on the index because we are divided. And I’m saying SABS will work with individuals, and those individuals will end nowhere because there is no united voice. As I’m saying, there will be many resources from science and innovation going to SABS and various bodies and universities. But when you look at the results, you must ask yourself, how many of our practitioners, especially the senior ones and who obtained such credentials with the support of these bodies and institutions and who were practising practitioners before obtaining such credentials, have got PhDs? So it is because these are other people who come and learn how to copy our knowledge and accrue credentials out of our knowledge. And at the end of the day, we clap hands, and we are spectators. So this is the narrative that we say it must change, but we will not change it if we want to be individuals. Let us be united and talk in unison and pursue our struggle, decolonising the mind that I’m talking off. Thank you.

How has your relationship been with these bodies if we can focus on the two specifically, SAHPRA and DSI and perhaps MRC?

Yeah. Tian, to respond to that question, I’ll pose the question that you might grapple with. And I just want our people out there to respond to this question. To say, how genuine are those relations? and whom does that relationship seek to empower? Does that relationship seek to redress? And if yes, how far has it gone? To redress? I will pose a very political question because we should not play. And we should not play here, holy cow, as if our exploitation and oppression are separate from the holistic chapter of political discrimination and exploitation—anyone who intended to contribute meaningfully to the liberation of South Africans. And I’m saying, pre-1994. Would they actually achieve that without engaging the African National Congress, without engaging the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, without engaging then AZAPO? And I’m saying I’m not going to answer, and I just posed that question. If anyone had a good and genuine intention of liberating South Africans, they would pursue a genuine cause of contributing to South Africans without engaging those. That’s the point that I’m putting here because there’s a particular narrative that I also want to pursue. It is a common cause that in this country, whether we like it or not, whether we want to undermine or recognise there are formations of traditional health practitioners who have played a meaningful role and made a mark, to be where we are, in the struggles of recognising traditional health practices, even the legislative reforms with their weakness. But the question is, has SAHPRA had an engagement with those formations? From where I’m seated, I’ve never had any form of interaction with SAHPRA. And I am saying not as an individual, as a leader of a major professional association of traditional health practitioners in this country in whatever platform I  have never had an engagement with SAHPRA. And equally, has SABS considered engaging those bodies, other than calling individuals and engaging them in a boardroom? Has there been an engagement where it has been saying, as formations which lead these constituents –  What is it that the agenda that you want us to pursue, as mandated by the government? And I’m referring to this because these are the entities financed by the taxpayers’ money by our government. They are entrusted with the responsibility of pursuing transformation. But again, would they pursue transformation through reading from a paper written by somebody who learned about us without engaging us in unison, as a voice as an organised formation. And I’m saying, that’s what makes me actually have some serious reservations about what is happening in our country. If these institutions are genuine, why are they not engaging in a dialogue with us? I usually make a simple example. I’m not crazy.  I don’t praise politicians. And I neither demonise them. But I always give credit where it deserves and where there is no need to give credit, I will not. Within the first six months in office with the current Minister of Health, we had an opportunity. I’m not saying everyone, but as leaders of major professional associations in this country, the NUPAATHPSA and the THO, we had an opportunity for him to listen to us and to hear us.  The position that we’re carrying from our constituencies within a period of six months, he met with us, not in less than four times. And now, as opposed to his predecessor, who served two conservative terms, who have not met us even a single day, and not that there were no efforts. There were efforts now coming to the DTI, or Science and Innovation, that claim to be doing a lot to seek to promote, seeking to develop our indigenous knowledge and all those things. Unfortunately, we have not had the luxury of meeting that department. I’m not talking about the minister; that is something else. I recall because when I personally, as a leader, made an initiative to reach out to that department to say we would love to have a meeting with the key strategic and relevant leadership.  I was told that we could only come when we have our meeting somewhere around Pretoria.  And I said, but, you are government, we don’t have resources can’t you resource us to have a meeting they said, unfortunately not. All the meetings that I’m referring to, with the Minister of Health currently doctors Zweli Mkhize those meetings were resourced by his ministry to make sure so when you talk redress, you talk the reparation actually, and actually change the undesirable status and standing and set clear goals which are aiming at bringing on par those who were previously disadvantaged we should not talk a fallacy. We should be genuine and be honest. That’s why I say I do not praise; I don’t give credit, but when credit is deserved, it must be given. We must recognise people who have done good work and departments have done good work and those who want just to enjoy to make sure that they tick the box in terms of their APPs pursue a particular agenda.  We should take into account that No, no, they are promoting an agenda. But that’s not our agenda. They promote indigenous knowledge, promoting traditional medicine, but the question for whose agenda is because we have not had a dialogue with them. They have not heard from us, as the majority, in terms of, of the organised practitioners of this will represent a majority of the voiceless in terms of the practice so that we have not been heard by those bodies, just to understand to say, what our constituencies are looking for, what do they what form of development, if we’re talking about product development, if we’re talking of packaging, if we’re talking of marketing, if we’re talking of exporting our products, how do we ensure that it benefits our people, unfortunately, so far, what we see, we see this knowledge, nicely moving and shifting. And I would say, the dismay and the surprise that you will see those who are academia and professors involved in this space, within no time when they retire, they will have factories that would produce our products and market. So the biggest question will be to say, it will be those people sitting on the advisory advising our government on this and the question you must answer. And as I said, I’m not going to answer your post questions to you and South Africans, then at the end, who did this seek to develop? Whom did this seek to redress? Whom does this seek to promote? Whom did this seek to make sure that the knowledge is preserved and protected? Thank you.

What are your thoughts on traditional health practitioners being classified as essential workers, especially as we become, even though very slowly, to the point where our vaccination plan will roll out?

Yes, for starters, I have to make it clear before I directly respond to your question. I want to make a disclaimer that “I cannot talk or either express views that seek to represent the bodies I serve in, I can’t speak on behalf of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on social behaviour change. Still, I will talk as an activist. As a practitioner, there is something that I just want also to put into the correct perspective because there is a myth that has been created in this country that practitioners are against vaccination and although our people have done and continue to do the good work in saving the lives and provide cures to ailments that our communities suffer. Again, we must present proper facts based on the realities of life and live amongst our communities.  I want to state and say talking to you as an I am a practising practitioner, and I’m speaking as a seasoned practitioner. My first graduation was in September 1978. When I graduated, I was still young, when I first graduated in the first initiation as a sangoma. So It’s important to put things into perspective because traditional medicine is about medicine. It is about culture; it is about spirituality. It’s about custom, it’s about knowledge, you acquire knowledge, and it’s about the experience. So you don’t think that you graduate tomorrow because we are possessed spiritually, you know, everything. No, that’s why we say our knowledge. It’s the knowledge that moved from generation to generation. And over the years, I’ve learned, I’ve been learning, and I’m still learning. Some of the people I’m learning from maybe younger than me in terms of age.  Knowledge and experiences must be taken into account, and people of our space must also consider scientific facts as they make comments so that such statements are well informed and backed with learned facts.  Learning and sharing of experiences and knowledge must be the basis of decisions we make. Equally, I learned such importance of applying historical knowledge and lessons when looking at the COVID-19 vaccination, not as a new phenomenon as vaccines have always been there. We have learned and understood from it that it’s important at times to take vaccinations. We are the actual architects’ practitioners of vaccination. Let me put it in our Nguni languages, who dominantly talk and use vaccination as part of our daily practices, so speaking of it, you talk about an activity we use and know most.  When talking of Ukuqinisa, Ukugoma, Ukuvikela, Ukuthintela, and Ukugcaba, we apply scarification and traditional injecting using special feathers from species. All of those are methods of vaccination in our own way.  In essence, we are experts, and to a certain extent, inventor of vaccination. Who is then talking or even asking us and even allege that we are opposed to COVID-19 vaccination? It is worth following correctly and getting our clear understanding and facts and concerns that we may have and be talking about on the vaccination. So the scarification that we do almost daily is evident enough not to be abruptly opposed to vaccination. Still, the views of our reputable practitioners must be adequately understood, not of those who are grandstanding and seek cheap popularity at the expense of human lives.  I want to repeat that as for vaccine, we support people’s rights and choices about their health needs and given clear education about it and satisfied with their questions. They need to seriously consider taking vaccine because we are also doing a vaccination against the spirit against the various forms of the disease. We even vaccinate people against lightning, which the evil people send. So one thing that needs to be demystified is to say that traditional health practitioner because you know that when we are called a dog, you tend to behave like a dog; you act as if you’ve got a tail because it gets to your mind. Vaccination is our practice. But we need to find out what has been the cause of scepticism from our people about this particular vaccine? The suspicion is based on the historical mistrust that has been between the biomedical and African health traditional practices, and it has been a limited space to share knowledge. The same scepticism that you will find on the other side about our forms of vaccination is the same scepticism that stands to exist regarding the perceptions and perpetuate the vaccine itself. If you look at the generations we are coming from, very few of us were not vaccinated. When we were at school, there was something called the x because we were immunised against polio, measles etc., vaccinated from measles. And here we are. We are still alive because we have been vaccinated. Our children have dual vaccinations. As Africans, they go to the clinic for vaccination for polio. They go to a traditional healer for vaccination against evil. Studies have also shown that more than 80% of the people for their health needs and their psychosocial needs still rely upon and use services of traditional health practitioners and their medicines in our society. Still, they are not only relying on that. They also rely on both traditional and biomedical. So they are also taking dual vaccinations regularly. What becomes important is that in terms of COVID-19, what we have raised is what our people raised. They said there is scepticism because we don’t have enough knowledge about this vaccine. We need to be given knowledge. And we need to be empowered so that we can also continue to be the advocates for change and advocate for access and continue to be advocates for human rights, as we have been doing. Because with the HIV and AIDS prevention methods, it was the same thing at the beginning. But once traditional health practitioners were brought into the fold, they were empowered and capacitated. They play a massive role as game-changers. They played a massive role as advocates. They were able within their indumbas to supply and give condoms to people. But what we’re saying in terms of vaccine is that we cannot afford to have more lives lost. Many of our own have lost life. May their souls rest in peace. We have lost leaders. We have lost practitioners. Again, if we’re saying we are immune from death, we are immune from dying from COVID, it will be misleading society, but this means we must put our efforts together. We must collaborate share knowledge. Hence we initiated the session where we had an engagement with the South African Medical Association, as the sector’s leadership and the two significant associations in the country. We had a dialogue to say how best we can have a platform where we exchange knowledge as practitioners so that we don’t know you send knowledge and empower us and the things that you don’t know we do the same. So traditional health practitioners can play a meaningful role as they already do. Because after we engaged with the Department of Health and the Minister of Health, a program has been rolled out in provinces, where our member practitioners are workshopped, about the details on the vaccine, providing answers to the specific questions that they were asking for the compatibility of a vaccine with the medicines that they are using, the compatibility of the vaccine with the chronic medication that they are taking. And the side effects, if there are any of the vaccine and the long term effects. So those workshops are starting to unpack and answer those questions. That enables our practitioners to play the role they should play in terms of the human rights they advocate, encouraged, and share knowledge with their clients. Of course, notwithstanding that people, they’ve got the right in terms of the Constitution, they’ve got a right to decide on the form of health service that they must take if they choose to vaccinate or not. But our people must know they’re getting empowered, and they know; hence you have practitioners who have already got a vaccine. And lastly, are we frontline workers or not? Inherently we are frontline health workers. It is a formality for the pronouncement. Our minister progressively said that “but THPs, you ask something that you should not. You know yourselves that you are health providers to your people daily, and you seek no permission to treat them. You are inherently health providers who are not seeking permission from the government”.  It is a fact that our people consult us 24 hours, is just a question of formality in terms of recognising that we are frontline workers because it is common cause that we are the closest to the people, you are those people who people go to for your services. Even at midnight, even when a clinic closes during the night, a traditional practitioner is always there. So we are frontline workers, but we must make sure that we’re equal to the task and behave in that and make sure that we protect and preserve our profession. Do not allow everyone to talk on behalf of our sector, misrepresent our profession, and even say things that are ridiculous that we are ashamed of because they demonstrate the level of lack of knowledge. So those are the things that we must actually embark on. Ensure that we get peer education and peer engagement even amongst ourselves and put things into context. But when it comes to the vaccine, we are the architects of vaccination. We vaccinate each and every day. We call people to come forward and ask clarity-seeking questions and get more education to make informed decisions to go and vaccinate. I say this because we also vaccinated them in our ways, such as that scarification is a vaccine in our own way.

What are some challenges or some success that has been historically in your sectors engagement with the National Strategic Plan?

Yeah, firstly, Tian, we need to give credit and applause to the current leadership of SANAC and the leadership of SANAC during the past seven years and the SANAC Civil Society. You may recall that there is a point where we left SANAC in protest as traditional practitioners and traditional healers because there was a point where we realised that SANAC had become a platform where there was not just a struggle for predominance. But there was total domination of the biomedical researchers; even the language and the jargon that dominated the discussions were not about what SANAC should have been, the agenda of mobilising this society to rally behind the prevention, the development of NSP, that is responsive. And they haven’t realised that even the leadership that was there was totally paralysed, unable to rise to the occasion. We formally withdraw our participation as traditional practitioners, and the traditional leaders followed us. And I think the transformation has emerged to the extent that our participation and the meaning and the understanding of the NSP is something that we actually can pride ourselves on because it finds relevance in it. I will take you to specific goals. When it comes to specific goals, some areas in terms of the current NSP, we talk of advocacy for services. There is a talk of political will. There is a talk of human rights and redress of inequalities and the implementation to ensure that the community receives decent services.  If their choices are respected, and their basic needs and support are such a way, there is a referral system based on mutual recognition and mutual respect. If you take from the very beginning of our interview, you will still realise that these are the areas you pick in the NSP in terms of goal one. And then, if then these are the areas that are in the NSP as traditional practitioners, we should pride ourselves on this NSP and our contribution. We are saying that when we move to the new NSP, there is no need for a substitute for these goals. But there is a desirability to strengthen goal one. But let’s come to goal two because goal one talks of accelerating prevention to reduce new infections. And then if you do that, you cannot do that with what I’ve already referred to, ensuring that within the context of human rights, where there’s a political will. There is also a political will, political leadership, and goal four which talks of strengthening the sense of strength when we talk of strengthening goal four, goal four talks of addressing social and structural drivers. When we’re talking about social and structural drivers, you are talking about certain aspects of social behaviour change and cultural barriers, which many times even ourselves as I say that, you know, one of the things that amused me, but ashamed me. About 15 years ago, when I met in a public gathering, one of our forebears, a practitioner, very senior Sangoma, stood up and introduced himself, and he said,  I am witch doctor, so and so. And I say, I mean, are we actually brainwashed to the extent that I can stand up and say, I am kaffir so and so because I’ve been called a kaffir? So I’m saying, when we talk about these realities, these realities are not just a fallacy. They are realities that we must deal with, which are very painful. If our people were got to the extent of accepting that they are called the kaffir and call themselves kaffirs, because when one is calling himself, a witch doctor is equal to that. These are some of the issues that we said we need to ensure that goal four is strengthened. And as a sector, we are saying we have a role to play. Because we need to play a meaningful role in social behaviour change, we need to make sure that certain cultural barriers are eradicated because some of the things don’t belong to us. They were super associated with us, and we accepted them. There are things like the violation of human rights violation of a girl child, which is called Ukuthwala. I grew in communities wherein the practice was performed in its proper context, not the distortion we witness these days. And as such, I can give you a lecture on it and its proper context.   It had nothing to do with abduction as it also had nothing to do with making our children be sex slaves. And we must have to find out who has introduced this criminal element in this novel practice, which was meant to build coherent relations in a particular form because that approach was used for those families who could not afford resources. And there was a process where the partners were engaging and agreeing, and the families were involved. But certainly, these are some of the things that we are talking about the cultural barriers, the social behaviour change, which in terms of the goal four of the NSP spoken about.  But we are saying that goal needs to be strengthened and unpacked more so that there is an understanding so that it talks on certain things so that people don’t talk for us when it comes to goal five of the NSP to the implementation.  That all the implementation that happens of the NSP must be done with a lens of human rights. And I have already said, if then we are dictated as a country, we allow our donor partners to dictate the methodologies, which violate human rights undermines human rights is something that we say, in terms of that goal must be strengthened.  That the contribution is supported, our donor partners in our country bring that in. It does have the lens of human rights. It does not prescribe people must have a right to make choices. They must make choices, even in terms of the services they need to prevent disease and promote their health.  When it comes to goal six, which deals with promotion, promoting leadership, and shared accountability. Tian, that’s why we’re there. We’re there because we know that traditional health practitioners are not just practitioners, but they are a key epicentre of leadership in communities. That is something that is getting eroded, or some of the traditional leaders also who are pathetic, I mean in terms of themselves, who don’t want to ask those who want to be traditional leaders, but don’t want to associate themselves with the traditional practitioners. Unfortunately, history tells traditional leaders, where advisors, advised by spiritual leaders, who are traditional leaders, are spiritual guidance on their society, what to do and when to harvest, and what not to harvest. And things that should not be done. Because if they are done, there will be social ills mishaps in their communities. If they do certain things in society, there will be hardships, misfortunes and instability. So there’s that kind of relationship, which you cannot actually take away that traditional health practitioners are part of society’s leadership. They are powerful models, they have a huge influence, and are spiritual leaders. So if you recognise that in terms of goal six, they play an important role in that leadership to make it simple. I know exactly. If my client comes to me and I say, you must not go to bed with your partner for six weeks, because you’re using this, I’m certain my client will not do that will not go to bed. Because if I tell him that, you know, you will be able to win the lotto. You said you want to win the lotto. Please don’t go to bed with your partner to win the lotto; they will do that. If we recognise such kind of influence of our people, we must recognise that in terms of the NSP goals. They’ve got a role to provide in terms of the change, behavioural change in breaking the social barriers, and recognising the people of the community’s key populations. Because we must understand that in terms of goal six, it is a role that they can play and play a role in continuous monitoring and evaluation. In a manner that will ensure that the programs are delivered within the framework and agreements that are reached more sustainably so that we don’t just have agreements just for the sake of having them –  have an NSP for compliance, we must be able to say that NSP is carried to the ladder. Lastly, outside the talk of goal six, goal six needs to be strengthened. Because goal six talks about the documentation of the best practices, capturing the lessons, and the best methods of practice, you know when I’m sitting here, and I’ve got a huge question, which is cause for concern to me. When traditional practitioners’ involvement was brought in, they played a huge role in their own Indumbas in the prevention, a huge role. They were even trained as peers. They will be there when peer trainers were trained to train other practitioners on advocacy on testing. And where did that program go? And if that was well documented, and those lessons were kept, we should be somewhere to reduce the spread in our camp. And again, we have abandoned this. And that’s why I say, for me, I’m very much passionate about goal eight. And again, as a sector, I am of the view that we should be advocating for that goal to be more strengthened and meaning be given to that goal. And I think those are the other issues that are very important to me. Of course, there are many thoughts around there that people should be concerned to say, do we still have to be part of the SANAC family and play a role in the NSP? And my answer is simple is to say, Yes, because we have got a role. And we can feel that we’re part of that family. And we’re not just part of the numbers, and we’re making a meaningful contribution. I mean, the mere fact that we are talking now of a THP sector leader, who has been elected by other sectors, to be the Deputy Chairperson of the civil societies. That responsibility humbles me. I’m also humbled by the other sectors’ recognition of our sector. They see that we can offer that sector a role in developing and implementing the NSP and the leading in such implementation.

Is there anything else you would like to say that we have not covered during this discussion?

My last words would be to say “Aluta” Continua. The struggle continues. There will be no total freedom without the freedom witnessed and the freedom liberating our spirituality, liberating our indigenous knowledge. We don’t become knowledge holders. We are recognised as knowledge owners because a knowledge holder holds knowledge on behalf of somebody else, you know, some of the things we just call for. But if you look at it, even the legislation and policies are designed by people outside our space, tactically and strategically such that they put us on the sidelines. Because one thing that I just want to put to you, okay, to look at this, look at this indigenous knowledges, were inherently in communities, but it is not everybody. I can make an example of Umhlonyane. Everyone claims to know that Umhlonyane and some other herbal teas do work for flu, but the administration of such, their measurements and the side effects, who knows about them? Indeed, it is not everyone. Instead, the practitioners know about them because of our people, and we’re not hiding their medicines and their use to their communities; hence, everyone knew about their use. We’re not cruel. We’re not hiding the knowledge from the communities. They made it that our communities know that for flu, you use which medicines and herbs, but the practitioners knew the detail on their administration of the use. That’s why other people had adverse, and they had side effects because of abuse and misuse. Controlled use and even supervised use is at times paramount. For example, unguided use of Umhlnyane can be dangerous for pregnant people; they run a risk of miscarrying, and such could be attributed to abuse of Umhlonyane and overdose of it can also lead to a problem in kidneys. So who has that knowledge? It is the practitioner. So I am saying this approach this narrative put in our country of separating the medicine from the practitioner is against the orthodox of African traditional medicine. I prescribe I administer, I diagnose I do everything it is unlike the biomedical, where there is the pharmacist, I’m also a pharmacist, and this narrative, which is contrary to the ethics of our profession, our people, they must look at it, microscopically, with a wide-open eye, like people now, they’re not saying during the time of COVID, the traditional practices made a meaningful contribution. No, no, they say steaming made a significant contribution. Because they just want to hide the truth that steaming is a form of practice of traditional health practitioners. This narrative is done deliberately and neatly that you separate practitioners from their practice and take it away. So that 25-50 years to come, traditional medicine and traditional health practices, traditional medicine will be there. But it will be something else conformed and transformed by traditional practitioners will be spectators whilst other people accumulate wealth out of the indigenous knowledge of our people.   And they are, lastly, working together through the promotion of mutual recognition, mutual respect, spirituality in health, and the total well-being of human beings and nature and society. Nurturing our indigenous knowledge is our natural resources in a manner that sought to benefit and enrich our people through redress can genuinely build better communities, not a fallacy. I thank you very much.