This story is part one of a series in which RelZim.org is exploring the evolving state of traditional religion in Zimbabwe.
For a long time, traditional medicine occupied the back tiers of the community in predominantly Christian Zimbabwe, but that has changed as many people are taking to old traditions to cure ill fortunes or just to get luck.
These days, the witchdoctors (they rather prefer to be called ‘doctors’) are using modern techniques to advertise and they now have surgeries, where people’s lives are said to be transformed. In a country with an unemployment rate of over 80 percent, people, according to traditional doctors, step on each other’s toes to get waters or medicine that can banish ill fortune.
Kennedy Kachukura, a young traditional healer, said that he can heal almost everything and also cures matters of the heart. “We get so many customers
daily. People visit for different reasons but mostly because of ill fortune, lost love and love potions and also some may want a general make-over of their body parts.”
Kachukura is in charge of the finances of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) and says that his organization has registered most traditional healers and those who are in charge of HIV and AIDS treatment.
Skepticism mounts when such issues are brought to the fore as they are difficult to prove scientifically. However, Kachukura says that his records speak of his prowess. “People are satisfied with what I do, I give them medicine according to their affliction and also a review date when they can come back to inform me about their progress. For the most part, it works and that is how I end up getting more customers because those who are satisfied will send the message to others,” said Kachukura.
And with the progression of time, traditional medicine is also evolving. From the unpalatable roots tubers to powders and even capsules, and from bottles of mixed waters to injections African medicine is being transformed just as it has transformed lives. Today, beside modern drugs in pharmacies one can also order traditional medication. Pharmacists are stocking the local herbs and capsules up because they say they are effective.
And while surgeries are associated with doctors in white coats, Kachukura and some progressive healers have started their own surgeries and say that the response from the public has been nothing short of fantastic.
“People are coming from across the country to seek medical attention and we are now selling our improved medication in Harare . “The medicine, that is 100 % natural, does work, but just like any other medication it can have side effects,” said Kachukura.
With the health sector still in distress after years of underinvestment, people in the country, who have always relied on traditional methods overtly or covertly, have been turning to traditional doctors who are for the most part cheaper and often always available.