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Zinatha goes religious!

-healing in Jesus’ name under the traditional healers act

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) is now registering vapositori as its members but their registration certificates have crosses and a bible instead of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi.

Zinatha leader, Prof Gordon Chavunduka, said members of the vapositori churches who practice medicine and charge fees were being registered by his association and were paying a mere $10 a year for their licences.

They were being encouraged to join Zinatha so that they could also benefit from educational programmes organised by the association.

“Many have joined Zinatha but through their church leaders they recommended that they be issued with a Zinatha certificate which does not have the pictures of Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi. This suggestion was accepted by Zinatha,” he said. “Traditional healers now have a choice of which type of certificate they want.”

Since Zinatha members are designated either as Registered Traditional Medical Practitioners (RTMP) or Registered Spirit Mediums (RMS), Prof Chavunduka said, most of the vapositori were being registered as spirit mediums as they operated along the same lines with traditional ones with the only difference being that one group was saying they were possessed by the holy spirit and the other ancestral spirits. He said most of the vapositori did not use muti but “divine” water.

He, however, said there was an increasing number of vapositori who were using both divine water and muti. These could be registered as RTMPs if they wanted to.

Prof Chavunduka said he did not see any conflict between the two types of practitioners as their aims were the same -to heal people.

While to most Christians the idea of registering religious healers under the Traditional Healers Act might sound absurd as traditional healers are not just looked down upon but are considered heathen -and in some cases agents of Satan- a close analysis shows that there is too fine a line to draw between the two.

This is particularly so when one considers that most traditional healers who convert to Christianity usually join churches where they become “prophets” and those prophets who opt out of religion become traditional healers.

Prof Chavunduka said the problem right now seems to be that a growing number of the so called vapositoris are now dabbling in both “divine” water and muti but they do all this in God’s name rather than through their ancestral spirits.

The other problem is the way certificates are issued at present.

Under the Traditional Medical Practitioners Act: “Any person who wishes to be registered shall apply to the registrar and shall submit with his application the appropriate fee and such information in relation to his application as he deems fit or as may be required by the registrar on the directions of council to supply.”

Most people believe this could be open to abuse especially at times like these when people can do anything to earn a living. Registration is also now crucial as it is now an offence for unregistered persons to practice traditional medicine without being registered. They can be fined up to $2 000 or imprisoned for up to two years, or both, while those who perform duties of spirit mediums without a licence can be fined up to $1 000 or two years,, or both.

Prof Chavunduka admitted that the Act as it stands is not very strict on membership. But this was simply because at the time the Act was passed, in 1981, a lot of trust was placed in the local community to vouch for the healer since he or she worked and lived with the community.

These qualifications were now being closely looked into to ensure that the organisation was not infiltrated by bogus healers, he said.

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