MPs Oppose Bill On Traditional Healers

TWO senior lawmakers say regulating traditional healers’ work as proposed in the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill will be difficult.

Defence minister Nahas Angula and his counterpart in the trade and industry ministry, Calle Schlettwein, expressed concerns over the proposals in Parliament last Wednesday when their colleague, health minister Richard Kamwi, tabled the Bill.

The Bill proposes that anyone practising as a traditional healer without registration may not claim or charge fees for any service rendered and that contravening the proposed law incurs a maximum fine of N$12 000 or three years in prison or both.

To regulate the traditional healers, the Bill proposes the creation of a traditional health council to enable those who fall under this category to issue workers with sick notes that are recognised by employers.

Some of the ministries suggested to be part of the council are trade and industry, justice and health.

According to the Bill, the council will control and exercise authority in respect of all matters affecting the education, tuition, training and qualifications of traditional health practitioners.

Another responsibility of the council is to encourage and promote efficiency and responsibility in respect of practising traditional healing and to guide registered persons with regard to the respective codes of conduct and ethical standards relating to practising traditional healing.

The bill will also make provisions to punish any healer who falsely claims to be able to cure cancer, HIV-AIDS or other terminal diseases.

Kamwi, who said the legislation has been in the offing for some time, explained that traditional healers will only be allowed to practise when they are registered with government.

“Any person who contravenes this clause is guilty of a criminal offence,” Kamwi said. “For more serious offences, a court may impose a fine of up to N$20 000 or imprisonment for a period of five years, or both.”

Angula believes government will not be able to control traditional healers, because they operate in secrecy and will not reveal their medicinal concoctions to public institutions.

He said Kamwi should have focused on coming up with a law that will make it illegal for children to die of malnutrition in Namibia, while Schlettwein said he does not support the Bill because it seeks to legalise an industry that is difficult to control.

“We are giving the lives of patients to traditional healers. We are saying, through this Bill, that these patients have a chance that their lives will be safe and that they are in good hands,” he said, adding that his ministry does not have officials with specialised skills to serve on the proposed healers’ commission.

“I think it’s a very serious matter. We are talking about lives and the health of people and we are creating a legal framework that says it is acceptable,” the minister said.

DTA parliamentarian Philemon Moongo was one of the lawmakers excited about the Bill, saying traditional healers will now have to be issued with certificates to separate the fake healers from the genuine ones.

“With this Bill, I think we will find out who the best traditional healers are. We don’t need cheats. We need true Namibian healers,” said Moongo, who plans to be a consultant on traditional issues when he steps down as member of parliament next year.

Source : The Namibian