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A CASE FOR WITCHDOCTORS

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On any given day I would have laughed off as diabolic if not attributing this to the machinations of deranged minds, the proposal by witchdoctors that government ought to fund their training (kwetfwasa) just like it does for those trained in modern western medicine in the health sector, because they were also performing a critical role in this sector.

In short, witchdoctors are desirous for the taxpayer to foot the bill for their training and transitioning to their call ostensibly because they also are merchants in the provision of health services. This apparently emerged during a meeting of members of the Witchdoctors Association last week. Witchdoctors fully understand the important role they play in society, even though people are not at ease to openly consult them, but would rather do so surreptitiously perhaps because they do not want to be stigmatised. This may be borne of the fact that in this milieu is the paradigm of pros and cons; the good and bad of traditional medicine for there are those who provide healing services while on the flip side of the same coin are those practicing witchcraft.

Come to think of it, it may also be possible that some practitioners multitask by performing dual roles – healing and witchcraft services side-by-side – depending on the conveyor belt of supply and demand. This would have the tendency of blurring the lines in determining the real objective of consulting witchdoctors that may be contributing to the stigmatisation of traditional or indigenous medicine. Of course it would be amiss of me to leave out the influence, mostly negative, religion or the church has had on traditional/indigenous medicine given its propensity to paint everything with one brush as evil. Perhaps this has been the most influential factor in demonising and maligning traditional medicine. Because in the church’s eyes traditional medicine cannot be a panacea to disease but is banded together with witchcraft.

Except for denialists, we all know the important roles traditional medicine plays in the lives of emaSwati, even if this does not always play itself out in the open. Practitioners know this and this is the source of their power in demanding what they are now demanding, from government. Even worse, they probably know the extent to which traditional medicine is used or abused for witchcraft and by who. Word on the streets is that witchcraft is the last bastion of the obtaining polity and it would be foolhardy to simply dismiss this as canard because this is what people believe from which they cannot be easily swayed by mere and bare denials.

Benighted

As I see it, the time has never been opportune to deal with this subject matter given swirling canard over witchcraft and other pagan practices that are abroad on this land. Only the damned can go on pretending otherwise, but overall emaSwati are not benighted, of course excluding those who have selected to become vassals with a twisted sense of loyalty. We cannot go on pretending that strange things are not happening in our environs about which we talk in hushed tones because of the pervasive fear that has been instilled on emaSwati over the decades. I shall deliberately not go into the entrails of this matter for obvious reasons, including the fact that no one can stand up to admit being a witch or employing witchcraft in order to prevail and get ahead or even to resolve problematic situations. Similarly, emaSwati will not own up to using traditional medicine or consulting traditional healers for fear of being stigmatised and marginalised given the blurred lines between traditional medicine and witchcraft.

Without going any further in a field I hardly have a cursory knowledge of, members of the Witchdoctors Association do seem to have a compelling case as espoused by their President, Makhanya Makhanya, on why they should be treated like practitioners of western medicine instead of being maligned and marginalised and consulted under the cloak of secrecy and darkness. In turn this would lead to their regulation and, who knows, creation of another visible and sustainable tax base. As it were, this matter, like other outstanding matters of national importance, should not be shrugged aside either as idiotic or irrelevant because it has the potential of becoming metastatic to the extent of causing discomfort to the body of the new nation state under construction. Perhaps this matter of witchcraft and traditional healers/doctors would find its way onto the national agenda in the much awaited national dialogue given the swirling canard on how they impact the daily lives of emaSwati but also the governance dynamics of this country.  

As I see it, we cannot continue as if everything is rosy in this country and keep on denying the obvious; emaSwati have been caged and silenced for too long. But the time has come for the people to unshackle themselves from this bondage. It is time they muster the courage to banish the pervasive fear instilled by the 1973 Decree that alienated all their human rights and civil liberties when a minority class elected to think and speak for the people in perpetuity.

Rumours

Citizens, not subjects, ought to be very concerned just about the rumours that refuse to go away about the use and abuse of traditional medicine and concomitant pagan and barbaric practices and activities that are now reportedly happening even in broad daylight in communities across the nation. It cannot be that we have accepted – as a sub-culture – that on the eve of every elections there is a spike in ritual related disappearances and murders. Consequently, we definitely cannot claim this country to be the Pulpit of Africa when undercurrents point to a trajectory to the opposite direction. But until we banish lying from our national lexicon just to secure our places on the feeding trough this country is doomed. It is time every one of us whose sanity has still not been spirited from them to stand up for the truth and condemn in the strongest terms possible the pagan practices that are taking this country back into the dark ages.  

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