THO Participation at the COSATU Congress

The Traditional Healers Organisation (THO),was represented by two of its members at the  COSATU Congress, which started from the 21st -24th September 2009. These were Phephsile Maseko, National Coordinator and Matshidiso Molefe Branch Education Secretary, Daveyton branch.

It was good to participate in such an energy filled event considering that the we (THO), were participating here for the first time and had to learn a lot from the exercise. Of critical importance was that, the THO was able to network with a wide membership of COSATU affiliates as possible and also enabled us to lobby support of shop stewards in ensuring that employers understand, respect and treat with dignity all employees who produce sick-notes from traditional health practitioners.

This is important because the constitution of the republic afford every South African the right to practice their religion, belief and opinion freely as cultural and religious communities without any fear of intimidation.
Of importance is that about 72% of our black South African population utilise traditional medicine, a use which is not confined to poor, rural and uneducated. It is further estimated that the average frequency of Traditional Medicine use per consumer is 4.8 times per year.What we observed at the Congress was that  COSATU does not understand Traditional Health Practitioners, let alone consider them as a key stakeholder that has a potential to one- day be members. What informs the above argument is that at least 133.000 income earning opportunities, including 63,000 plant harvester, 3.000 street traders and 68.000 full-time herbalists could directly benefit and have a voting right at COSATU if properly engaged by the union leadership. THO feels that COSATU should take the above stats seriously and ensure that these members are mobilised, recruited and  the THO is practically supported to ensure that such poor people are taken care of, if it is to be truly seen as a voice of the working class.
At THO we believe that a national Consortium of healers needs to be formulated to truly rally behind the challenges we face and that healer formations should consider it a right to pursue membership in any formation which will bring about meaningful change in their lives and most importantly support their interest and not an imperialist agenda. As Healers we will need to Unite against discrimination and sabotage from government and the private sector at all levels.

Like COSATU, we should feel deep within the suffering of other colleagues in the profession. Because i believe every healer agrees that an Injury to One is an injury to All!

Traditional medicine contributes about R2.9billion to the country's GDP but is the least recognised and funded programme of government. Compared to 34.000 western medical practitioners, 11.000 pharmacists, 100.000 professional nurses, 84.000 staff nurses and auxilliaries, 3.600 complementary health practitioners the Traditional Health Practitioners are the largest in number and currently estimated at  185,500 and yet they do not have a Regulatory Council. The lack of Council by government makes the profession and its consumers more vulnerable and that is why all justice and human rights loving people of this country should support the THO when we demand government to award us these RIGHTS.

The right to celebrate traditional medicine Day and honour practitioners of Traditional Medicine is not a privilege!.

Why THO alleges that government is dividing the health-care sector and undermining traditional medicine practice?

THO lives to promote and protect traditional medicine, consumers and member practitioners. This is done through different activities which we employ to hold government accountable.

Why is traditional medicine not covered by medical schemes, why the National Health Insurance excludes traditional medicine, why government does not take serious the rights of women practitioners who are daily harrassed and exposed to all sorts of vulnerability within this profession, when will government establish the THP Council, why is Traditional Medicine Day not commemorated each year while South Africa has signed the WHO Declaration and binded by its Resolutions. When will government 'mainstream' traditional medicine, why should the Minister and Officials attend conferences and congresses on traditional medicine without Healers and also fail to come back and implement?  Why is the THP Act No. 22 of 2007 excluded from the recent National AIDS Strategic Plan,  when will government and COSATU ever stop biopiracy of intellectual property and indigenous knowledge? Why are tradiitonal healers led programmes not funded by government when such programmes are funded when led by officials,their friends and families.

Lastly why government want to register healers in districts when it has dismally failing to provide them with basic needs such as competent training programs, assisting us establish poverty alleviation programmes and also putting pressure on national government to institute a Council which is expected to perform some of the above tasks? 

THO, will bring you more news on the relevance of  COSATU Congress declarations and resolutions to the traditional healing profession.

Thokoza, Qamagu, Ndawuwe

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