The roadside healers

Christinah Motlhabane
Mbakiso Mpapho
Making Ends Meets

The use of traditional medicine has long divided opinion, with some associating the practice with dark deeds and witchcraft while others consider it an essential part of their healthcare.

In the past, people would have to leave for the villages to receive help from healers. Now, however, herbalists are becoming an increasingly common sight on city streets.

Indeed, as The Voice’s CHRISTINAH MOTLHABANE discovered when she ventured into the heart of Francistown, a roaring roadside trade in herbs and traditional remedies exists in the Ghetto.

One such healer is Mbakiso Mpapho, an Archbishop at Phodiso the Facestone church in Zion.

Schooled in the art by his father and grandfather, the 74-year-old has been selling his vast collection of natural medicines and remedies on the roadsides of Francistown since 2008.

His small stall is set up by Barclays Plaza and attracts several interested onlookers during our short interview.

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“I assist people with different problems like STIs, womb problems, court cases, poor erections just to mention a few. I get my herbs from the bush and have medicines like ba swabile, mokaikai, makgonatsothe, mbengawonga, nkoshwana, and many others,” reveals Mpapho, who does not take his herbs for scientific approval.

The Hubona native, who is also the Chairman of Dingaka Association, notes that business is still very good despite a huge increase in the competition since he first started.

Deeper in the city, along what locals call ‘Zimbabwe Street’, Reuben Matsheka, 42, sits beside his collection of herbs and concoctions, which are neatly laid out on a broken-down cardboard box.

Matsheka took up the mantle of healer three years ago, acting on the advice of traditional doctors, who he had visited for consultation when ‘things in his life were not going well.

“I consulted many healers who told me the same thing, ‘badimo ga ba sa ja ka lorato’ (the Gods are not satisfied). I had to do what my late parents were doing.
I went to the bush to look for the herbs as I already knew them and started helping people.”

The roadside healers
Reuben Matsheka

Matsheka, who is originally from Serowe, says his products and potions are useful for several scenarios.

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“I help with many things like if one wants to be lucky in life, chase away bad spirits from the yards and cattle posts, basically anything that one wants. I don’t just get someone the medicine, I listen to their problems and if need be I check with my Godson how I can assist my patient,” he explains with obvious pride.

On a good day, Matsheka says he can make up to P1, 000 while on a slow day, he still expects to walk away with P300. His biggest customers are men who struggle with erections.

Further down the street, another herbalist making a living in the Ghetto is 57-year-old Themashanga native, Thabo Fidzane.

Taught the art of working with herbs by his brother, Fidzane deals with people who want protection from witchcraft, protection for their livestock, STIs, and poor erections.

The roadside healers
Thabo Fidzane

“I am just a herbalist, not a prophet and some of the herbs I have are moralala, thamalatsa, and mojakabomo,” reveals Fidzane, who is relatively new to the trade having taken the commercial route in February last year.

46-year-old Kumbulani Molathiwa of Tshesebe village reveals he was ‘taught medicines’ by traditional doctors.

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“I don’t use bones for consultation, I just help those coming to me with their problems like back pains, women who are barren because of dirt in the womb, and many other problems. I dig my herbs in the bush then I dry and package them nicely and sell in sachets, which I buy from Knockout,” states Molathiwa, noting that although Covid-19 has disturbed his business, he is still ‘doing alright’.

The roadside healers
Kumbulani Molathiwa

He also explains it is worth braving the winter weather and sitting out in the cold as this is the time of year when he is busiest, as many women experience womb problems while men have complications with their kidneys.

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