By Hassan Isilow INVESTIGATIVE FEATURE: In South Africa, the word sangoma refers to a person who practices herbal medicine or has supernatural healing powers.This week I went undercover to investigate the activities of a growing number of foreign sangoma’s (traditional healers) that operate within Cape Town and its environs.Under Cover It is am on Wednesday morning and I’m sitting in a queue with four other clients waiting for the services of a sangoma in a well furnished office in Loop Street, Cape Town.
She asks for R70 which she says is consultation fees for seeing the “doctor”.Being on a special assignment, I oblige and pay the money.A fellow “patient” waiting with me in the queue is an elderly Muslim woman who tells me her youngest son has “bad luck” and cannot stay on a job for long.So she wants the sangoma to give him herbs for good luck . At exactly 10am, I’m led into the traditional healer’s office by the young female receptionist. I cannot see anything, but hear voices of so-called “ancestors”.The sangoma who calls himself “Dr” Mutalemwa Yusuf, asks me to tell him my problems.
I lie to him, saying that I cannot find a bride and I urgently need one.The healer then tells me to make sacrifice by buying two goats, a white African hen and food stuffs to appease my ancestors, who he claims are unhappy with me.In a twist of events, he also tells me that a close family friend has bewitched me and I will need to pay R12, 000 (,000) to be cleansed by the sangoma.All Lies As I leave the sangoma’s shrine, I meet an old varsity friend from East Africa who asks me what I was doing there.He tells me he was also a sangoma when he first arrived in South Africa, before getting a formal job.My friend said since most “blacks” and a few of the other races believe in superstition and the powers of the ancestors, it created the perfect opportunity for unemployed foreigners and a few local con artists to take advantage.