Iqhirha (diviner) Ntombizodwa Noqayi was elected chairperson of the new Grahamstown branch of traditional healers association Intando Yabaphantsi during a traditional ceremony last weekend.
The association is a national non-profit organisation specialising in traditional healing and medicine. Traditional healers, sangomas and praise singers were invited to the local launch at the Extension 9 community hall, starting last Friday morning.
The three-day ceremony and meetings were conducted on the eve of African Traditional Medicine Week, from 26 until 31 August. Members of the association from Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth and East London, as well as traditional dancers from Port Elizabeth attended.
The exclamation, “Camagu!” (thank you) mixed with the bellowing of a cow as it was slaughtered on Friday morning.
National coordinator, Luyanda Matiwane, also known as Rhadebe, said the ancestors held the key to where people came from, and where they were going.
“They are the secret knowledge of our societies,” he said. “We (healers) listen, we hear, we talk and we find medicines,” he said.
He said the organisation was trying to establish structures in every province of South Africa. “We all know there are things hospitals cannot cure, for which only healers can administer the right remedy,” he said.
Noqayi said that their aim is to help the community of Grahamstown see the value of traditional healing. She said the organisation has 52 members. It embraces amaqhirha, ingcibi (circumcision doctors), praise poets and traditional dancers.
The Kuyasa Cultural Group, praise singers and a choir performed. Members of the newly elected executive are Phiwemna Ralo (secretary), Kholeka Tsotsa (treasurer), Zongezile Madoda (deputy chair), Ntombizodwa Noqayi (chairperson), Skhombisa Smetshe (additional member), Mandlenkosi Dyakala (additional member) and Nomangesi Plaatjie (additional member).
African Traditional Medicine Week recognises the important role of traditional medicine on the continent. It aims to integrate traditional medicine into health systems and provide a scientific basis for ensuring patient safety and quality healthcare.
According to the World Health Organisation, about 80% of Africa’s population relies on traditional medicine for their basic health needs. “In some cases traditional medicine is the only healthcare service available.”
In South Africa, the official recognition and institutionalisation of traditional medicine made strides this year when the Department of Health formed an Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council in February. Its task is to integrate traditional medicine into the National Health Insurance (NHI) over three years.
Additional research by Andiswa Botha.