South Africa's 200,000 traditional medicine practitioners are to be officially recognised as health care professionals under new legislation passed yesterday (9 September). Described by health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, as "groundbreaking", the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill received near unanimous backing in the South African parliament.
Under the new law, a council will be created to license traditional healers, and only those who are registered will be allowed to practise. However, they will not be permitted to diagnose or treat terminal diseases such as AIDS or cancer. Healers who break the law will face a fine or up to one year in prison.
South Africa's health ministry estimates that about 70 per cent of the population consults traditional healers, who are also known as a sangoma or inyanga.