south Africa
Poster on website of traditional healer in South Africa | Dr. Mosa

The Traditional Healers’ Organisation, THO, in South Africa has described an upcoming summit on pseudoscience and quackery as a form of ‘medical apartheid’. The program is holding at Stellenbosch University. The Centre for Evidence-based Health Care and Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication at the University are hosting the event.

The spokesperson of the THO, Phepsile Maseko stated that traditional medicine has the right to exist. Of course it does, as long as it is evidence based.

He further noted: “It’s interesting that those in the West are quick to judge and label it as anti-science, yet they steal from traditional medicine. When they use words like ‘quackery’, we do not mind because that is apartheid talk.”

Apartheid talk? Who is saying that ‘traditional medicine’ should not exist? What, in the theme of this summit, says or implies the abolition of ‘traditional medicine’? Who has labeled traditional medicine as anti science?

As one of the stakeholders in the health care sector in South Africa, the THO should support any move to tackle quackery and pseudo science. Quackery is an issue globally. Shady medical practices are injurious to health. They are not good for South Africans whether white or black.

Using the narrative of apartheid to undermine such a critical project is unconscionable. Quackery should not be tolerated in the name of traditional medicine.

So why should the THO be disturbed by a meeting to discuss dubious and ignorant medical practices in South Africa? Are they indirectly saying that the traditional healing system is a fraudulent one? Does the THO want shoddy medical practices to continue in the country?

Why are the traditional healers seeing the issue through the lens of race, as a case of western medicine versus Africa traditional medicine’, white versus black? Why can’t they see it as a case of medical claims that are evidence based versus those that are not evidence based?

This is because there is nothing like western or traditional medicine,  African, Asian, black or white medicine. Scientifically speaking, these categories are empty and meaningless because scientific medicine is universally applicable.

As they say, medicine is medicine, either it works or it does not. If it does not work, it is not medicine no matter how one describes it- traditional or modern, western, or eastern. These labels do not invest safety and efficacy on any medical claim or tradition.

Instead of dismissing this summit as an apartheid project, traditional healers should liaise with the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care and the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (Censcom) at the university to explore this important topic

The TBO should stop this paranoid talk and join efforts to combat shoddy medical claims and practices in South Africa.

Leo Igwe is a human rights activist and the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He was the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He can be reached by email HERE

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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