THO Submission of Comments to the Proposed Traditional Health Practitioner's Bill of 2004.
To Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health

SUMMARY

The Traditional Healers Organization sees that this is an important Bill for Traditional Health Practitionerss, it can provide an opportunity to assist in Traditional Health Practitionerss status and to Traditional Health Practitionerss to be recognised as a professional group within society. Some of the major issues Traditional Healers Organization has with this Bill are:

  • Traditional Healer (TH) associations have not been fully consulted in compiling this Bill or in the processes the Bill discusses for the future. All of the power to make decisions in relation to THs has been given to the Minister for Health and the Interim Traditional Health Practitionerss Council. The Traditional Healers Organization believes all decisions and the implementation of the Bill should be made in consultation with the major Traditional Healer associations – including changes made to the Bill and the selection of the Interim Traditional Health Practitionerss Council and future decisions.
  • The election of the Interim Traditional Health Practitionerss Council was in February 2002 and many of the TH associations were invited at the 11th hour to assist in the election. This is not proper consultation. We believe the consultation process should have been over a period of at least 3 months giving each TH association time to nominate several people.
  • It appears that many of the issues the Bill deals with and many of the tasks and aims the Bill is intended to implement are a duplication of what organisations like the Traditional Healers Organization and other Traditional Healer associations are currently doing and trying to improve.
  • Traditional Healers Organization questions why the government does not further capacitate, and give power to, the Traditional Healer associations that are already established and currently trying to fulfill the aims of the Bill.
  • It appears the government did not fully investigate what mechanisms were already put in place to attempt to fulfill the aims of the Bill by Traditional Healer associations.
  • Organisations like Traditional Healers Organization have not been able to fully implement all of the aims of the Bill due to lack of funds and the legal power and authority the Bill contemplates for, and bestows upon, the Interim Traditional Health Practitionerss Council – eg registration; ensuring validation of qualifications and good character of applicants; training, monitoring and investigations of misconduct.
  • The Interim Traditional Health Practitionerss Bill is a great idea but it is reinventing the wheel – many of the mechanisms have already been implemented, or begun, by Healer associations.

GENERAL COMMENTS

  • What role does the government see the larger Traditional Healer associations and organizations that are already established playing in relation to this Bill?
  • The larger organisation and associations have not properly informed as they were never given enough time or the opportunity to discuss the Bill at a forum. Many of the organisations were called in at the last minute for “consultation”. This is not a real consultation process!
  • When will the registration of Traditional Health Practitionerss commence?
  • Are the sub-committees already existing? If so, who was consulted on this process?
  • Re Sect 20.1(b) There are so many specialists around the country who come from outside South Africa.
  • Does South Africa not need these Specialists? OR
  • Are they going to be issued a special work permit and registration?
  • What about a person who is currently holding a valid working or business visa? Will they be eligible for registration?
  • Age limit - To be a Traditional Health Practitioners does not need any age limit as the spirit of your ancestors needs you to do so, you will be without a choice. You can be a Traditional Healer at the age of ten, and once you ignore the offer from your ancestors you can be punished.
  • The Bill does not discuss the issue of assisting the practitioner to get their money from the patients who do not want to pay their treatment fees. But it discusses assisting the patients to get their money if they are overcharged. Are there going to be mechanisms put in place to assist Traditional Health Practitionerss to retrieve owed monies?
  • If a member is deregistered and continues to practice, what disciplinary measures are going to be taken?
  • Some people firstly go ‘mad’ or mentally ill as a sign of they must be students Traditional Health Practitionerss. How are such people going to be registered?
  • In relation to mentors and validation of qualifications, what about people who are not trained but they come to power through dreams or other similar circumstances?
  • The role of the Council is an important one with many functions. Hence it is imperative they meet more frequently, at least once a month.
  • The majority of Traditional Healers are not educated, how are they going to be examined? Who is going to examine them? Training and exams need to be user friendly and cater for illiteracy.
  • How is the council going to give full protection to the people who are the victims of witchcraft violence and educate the public on such issues? Will such issues be part of the role of the Council? Will the Council utilise it’s position and the media to educate the public on all issues related to Traditional Health Practitionerss?
  • A person who pretends to be the Registrar or Investigating Officer must undergo a harsher punishment than this six month, as many of the Traditional Health Practitionerss are uneducated and they can be easily deceived or robbed. They may not even be able to prove if the documents shown to them are true or false.
  • When a person is out of the country for three years, or for a certain time, can he/she send someone during his/her absence to pay his/her fees?
  • It is not clear as to who is going to monitor the day to day practice of members to ensure there is no misconduct, the person is of good character and their practice meets the standards.
  • Any changes made to regulations should be in full consultation with all larger Traditional Healers associations and not to be last minutes discussions.
  • Government needs to provide information, in writing, of any potential changes and updates to legislation well before time, organizing a forum inviting all larger Traditional Healer associations to fully discuss possible changes.
  • All associations and organizations need to be equally well consulted with a lot of time to consult with their members (Minimum 3 Months).
  • 24(1) The appeal of 30 days needs to be more flexible as many Traditional Health Practitionerss are not literate and may not be aware of such strict timelines and legal processes. Many are not in urban areas, therefore isolated and do not have access to information, assistance and support for such an appeal in the time frame.
  • Is a member still suspended after the payment of a fine for misconduct. If not, this can be prejudice to those who do not have the funds to pay fines. Those who have money can continue to do wrong and pay fines – equity issues.
  • All correspondence with Traditional Health Practitionerss in relation to misconduct, suspension, fines and deregistration should be served in person in the form of a notice, similar to a subpoena. This notice should be read to ensure full comprehension, as many Traditional Health Practitionerss are not literate


THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF TRADITIONAL HEALER ORGANISATIONS

There is no mention in the Bill of the role and responsibilities of the current larger Traditional Healer associations. The Traditional Healers Organization puts forward the following proposals on the role and responsibilities of the already established, larger Traditional Healer associations. Traditional Healer associations are to:

  • Ensure all Healers are registered and trained as proper Traditional Health Practitioners and be responsible for monitoring their practices.
  • Ensure good character of the person who is registered and that their qualifications are validated, if possible through their master or mentor. In cases where the master is dead, relocated or there was no master at all, Traditional Healer association’s committees / councils should be responsible for validating their qualification.
  • Be responsible for deciding on the training needs and providers and how examinations are to be conducted.
  • Do investigations into misconduct where they delegate senior Traditional Healers and relevant staff members to follow up the investigations.
  • Make sure that all laws surrounding the Traditional Health Practitionerss Bill are enforced.
  • All major Healer association need equally ample time to consult and nominate the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council and future Councils. At the last election in February 2002, some healer organisations were given ample time whereas some were called in the eleventh hour with no time for preparation, consultation or to fully participate in process of the day.
  • Organisations, in collaboration with the Council, must decide the full definition of what is unprofessional conduct, improper and disgraceful conduct outside the obvious abuses. (re definitions and section 28(5)(c).
  • Healer associations will be responsible for registrations, training and examination and collection of all fees.Healer associations will be fully responsible for submitting quarterly reports on how fees have been utilised.


ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE COUNCIL.

The Traditional Healers Organization recommends the following roles and responsibilities for Traditional Health Practitionerss Council:

  • Council has to liaise with all major Traditional Health Practitionerss’ organizations on any issues that pertain to Traditional Healing and the general public health.
  • Ensure that there is Traditional Health Practitionerss representation on all health related councils and committees.
  • Must engage in full consultation with all major Healer organizations and must ensure election of an appropriate Traditional Health Practitioners representative on all national, provincial and regional health councils and committees as contemplated in sections of the National Health Bill.
  • The same Council needs to ensure that proper Traditional Health Practitioners representation is made on all relevant government departmental bodies and issues, e.g. Environment, Ethics, Arts and Culture - Traditional Health Practitionerss are more than just Healers as they are the Custodians of Traditional Knowledge and Customs.
  • The Council’s role needs to be one of uniting the Traditional Healer associations to work together toward the same aims and objectives by ensuring regular meetings between the larger associations and monitoring the work of these organisations – to work on a macro, rather than micro, level.
    • Outgoing Council’s responsibility is to ensure re: section 7.1. (c) that ample time is give to elect nominees and elections are held in each province with full consultation of all major Healer organization, to elect provincial delegates to sit on the Council.
  • Major Healer organizations must get three (3) nominations and one (1) vote per province where they have active membership of more than 4000 members within the province. (These figures are suggested guidelines, as are those below)
  • To be considered a major organization you should have at least 4000 members. For every four thousand members an organization has per province they shall have one nomination and one vote - re Section 7.1. (c).
  • Section 7.1. (a, c & t) Person elected should be a senior Traditional Healer who has vast knowledge in Traditional Healing, Culture, Traditions and general health and have three (3) years practical experience of Traditional Healing.
  • Section 7.1. (d-h) They can sit on board only if they have knowledge and belief in Traditional Healing .
  • In relation to Section 19.2 (a) if a Traditional Healer is applying for a working or business visa through the department of Home Affairs and there are any question in relation to the validity of the application, prior to making any decision, Home Affairs must consult with the Council and major Traditional Healer organisations.
  • Council, in full consultation with major Healer associations, will stipulate the amount to be paid as registration fee.
  • All of sections 41,42 & 43, must be in full consultation with major Healer associations.
  • As part of empowerment, and a sign acknowledgement of the work already done by associations, government needs to approve major Healer organisations to fulfil the majority of what is prescribed as the role of Council, with the Council overseeing their role e.g. Registration, training, validation of qualifications, monitoring and disciplinary processes.
  • Council will ensure the promotion of Traditional Medicines and Healing, dispel myths, educate the public on the benefits of Traditional Medicine and the public’s rights through use of media.
  • Council must make sure that all health schemes cater for claims of visits to Traditional Health Practitionerss, treatment and purchase of herbs for preventative health care.