Health Care Practices
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‘Inyanga’ was the medicine man among the Swazi people. Entry into the profession was by free will. Inyanga worked with natural substances like leaves, roots, barks and fruits of some trees. The witches, on the other hand, are referred to as ‘batsakatsi’ which simply means one who does evil things. Witchcraft was believed to be passed down not by men and thus only women and female siblings would inherit it (Gailey, 1968).
In Swaziland there are two main types of health care practices; the one that is offered by biomedical practitioners and another one offered by traditional doctors (Green, 1987). The traditional medical practitioners are regarded with high esteem in the society.
The traditional medical practitioners work in the environment the patients understand; they provide a humane relation and therefore get attention and understanding in return. They are expected to offer solutions to problems of their patients. Traditional medicine practitioners can treat diseases of both human beings and animals (Green, 1987).
In Swaziland people with bad motives create and send serious disease; they don’t come just from nowhere. Common disease can be accepted to be treated by doctors; but mental illnesses and other ‘abnormal’ disease are believed to be sent or sourced by the sorcerers. These kinds of diseases are believed to be handled only by traditional medicine practitioner and diviners. When treating such diseases a traditional doctor was given a small gift like a goat and upon the healing of the patient a cow would be given. Nowadays, a predetermined amount is paid to treat a particular disease (Green, 1987).
For a long time Swaziland depended on their traditional medicine men as the primary source of health care. These services were rendered by traditional doctors. More than three quarters of the population rely on them. The imperialists wanted to stop it but they could not.
In the Swazi medical practices there were no technical practices like surgery and transplanting of human organs. Chronic diseases were not treated with a lot of medicinal input but more divine power was required. A seriously sick individual was attended by the diviners and a lot of sacrifices were offered. If gods accepted the sacrifices, the patients would be healed; but if gods refused, they would die (Gailey, 1968).
The traditional medical practitioners believed that it was not their medicine that treated their patients but it was their will which healed them. The sick person had to take medicine as instructed, believe and execute all duties that were given by the medicine man. This would facilitate their quick recovery. Failure to do that was an insult not just to the medicine person but also ancestors and gods; and when gods were angry you would die miserably (Laurel, 1991). Mental illness was regarded as abnormal cases. It was not believed to occur naturally. The Swazi believed that it was caused by sorcery or people with ill motives. Such diseases would be treated only by traditional medicine persons or diviners.
In most traditional African societies, including Swazi people, diseases are sent to punish human race because of disobedience to gods or some imbalance between physical and spiritual life. The healer in this case was to cleanse the victim; this would be done with the help of ancestors. In such a society, it becomes almost impossible to breach the gap between such traditions and provision of biomedical services (Ngubane, 1983).
In the traditional Swazi culture the medicine practitioners and diviners were the only people who could solve health issues. They were therefore regarded with a lot of significance and respect in the community. They solve issues of diarrhea, vomiting, cancer, wounds, headache, stomachache, mental disorders, birth problems and many others. They work with roots, leaves, barks and even foodstuff through special diets.
Diviners were more special in the group. They had direct communication with the ancestors; they would act according to directions given by the ancestors. In most cases their patients would be consulted for the cause of the problem rather than the solution to a problem. Whereas medicine persons were to be trained, diviners were to be born (Ngubane, 1983). It was inherited in some families. The inheritance was very important for the continuity of divine services for the clan. The prescription of medicine from the diviners would include charms, leaves, roots and instructions of the course of action. Among the Swazi people it was thought that the diviners were super intelligent. They are the most powerful and therefore they were given due respect by all. They would consult directly with the ancestors and would bring the information back. People would also provide them with information to take to their ancestors. Every complex matter would require their intentions since they had solutions for all the problems that befall the community (Ngubane, 1983).
In the current society, however, there are only a few diviners still exist in Swaziland. Those who believe in their power also exist. Most of the people have followed new faiths, such as Christianity. Those who have been converted to new faiths are not allowed by their spiritual leaders to consult the diviners. Such people have also been known to exist in the neighboring communities like Sotho and Tonga.
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