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GOBELA UNPACKS WHAT IT TAKES TO GRADUATE AS INYANGA

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MPOFU – Just like in a standard medical profession, traditional healers also undergo training, get tested, and then graduate. 

The big question, however, is what does it take to become a traditional healer? On Saturday, two traditional healers at a Mhlanga homestead around Mpofu graduated. This was considered a big event in the area and several people gathered to witness it. 

Traditional healer Bulawayo Mhlanga, who is also referred to as a Gobela around Mpofu, narrated what it took for one to become a traditional healer.

Gobela refers to a person whose duty is to train an inyanga. Other than just being a gobela, Mhlanga has a traditional healer’s consultation room referred to as an indumba. This is where she spends most of her time and treats her patients. 

Graduation

Mhlanga, who has been a traditional healer for over 20 years, said such graduation ceremonies were not common. 

“This is not like a college where people register every year,” she said. 

Mhlanga said being an inyanga was not just an ordinary profession that one could just choose to join.

“You cannot just wake up and say, you want to be a traditional healer. It is a calling,” said Mhlanga. She revealed that such a process normally started of as an icurable ailment. Mhlanga said in her case, she had fallen ill such that even her skin developed dark patches. “I developed patches like a leopard,” she claimed.  Mhlanga said she tried going to various health facilities but this did not help. “I became weaker by the day,” she said. She said her life changed when she had a dream in which someone appeared to her, telling her what she should do. 

Mhlanga said it was then that she realised that she was being called to become a traditional healer. “I then underwent kweftwasa,” she said. 

She said kweftwasa was a process where one underwent training to become a traditional healer. Mhlanga said only a person who had the calling for it should undergo training. 

She revealed that she went for the process locally and in South Africa (SA) as well.  When asked how one could tell if he or she was being called to be a traditional healer, Mhlanga said the most obvious way was when one developed an incurable ailment. “You can go to the best doctors but you will never recover unless you undergo the kwetfwasa process,” she said. Mhlanga said the sickness was a sign that someone had a lidloti or a connection with an ancestral spirit. She said it was this ancestral spirit which guided the person to do the things they did. 

Ailments

She said her lidloti guided her in treating people and showed her which herbs ccould treat specific ailments. 

Mhlanga said when she was called to be a traditional healer, she was given the name Bulawayo. She said this name connected her to her ancestral spirits. She said the spirits also warned about the future. “They even told me about your coming here long before you arrived,” she explained.

It is not only adults who qualify to become traditional healers, according to Mhlanga. She recalled how a nine-year-old boy was initiated at her homestead. Mhlanga said the boy was able to connect with his ancestral spirits, such that he could even locate hidden items. 

Mhlanga also revealed that she was a registered traditional healer. She said this was good because there were times when she had to approach authorities if there were disagreements with clients. “We can no longer operate informally,” she said.  Asked if she had ever had patients who suffered from COVID-19 who had been treated, Mhlanga said she was not able to treat COVID-19. “Maybe other traditional healers can but I cannot,” she said.

However, she said she normally treated illnesses which were flu-like using herbs. “My home is like a hospital,” said Mhlanga. She said patients of all ages usually flocked to her home for treatment. Meanwhile, Mhlanga warned that emadloti should not be referred to as demons. She said sometimes people who could communicate with emadloti or ancestral spirits were referred to as demon possessed.  “This is wrong,” she said. Mhlanga said in some instances, one could become a traditional healer and continue attending church while others could not.  She revealed that before becoming a traditional healer, she attended a Zion church.

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