Healing Divides

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that approximately 80% of the population of the African continent uses traditional medicine as their primary source of healthcare and so do more than 65% of the world’s population. In South Africa about 84% of the population consult a sangoma more than three times a year.

Over 190,000 practitioners of traditional medicine were registered in South Africa in 2007 including herbalists, diviners, traditional surgeons who mainly perform circumcisions, and traditional birth attendants. This registry however excludes the more prevalent and widely sought after spiritual or faith healers in the country.

Recently, the industry has been bolstered by growing numbers of foreign, migrant healers coming from other Sub-Saharan African countries. The practice of this growing number of foreign sangoma’s and healers has however received scant attention, aside from a handful of “scare reports” in the media focusing on “scammers” and “fake” foreign sangomas.

We provide a deeper look, probing how foreign practices intersect and/ or clash with local healing traditions and beliefs.

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