A comparative exegesis of the church-based, western and traditional healing in South Africa

  • Maxwell Z. Shamase
Keywords: western (modern) medicine, traditional healer, socio-magico-religious beliefs, evangelisation, syncretism


The Mid-1970s witnessed the bulk of South Africans living in abject poverty and in a Third World situation. In 1978 the World Health Organisation adopted the popular slogan, ‘Health for all by the year 2000’ (WHO 1983: 319). This made it crucial and urgent that alternative health care systems other than the Western model be explored. Traditional healers are as old as Africa. China has had her ‘foot doctors’ for centuries. These are known existing resources. The Traditional healer, long spurned by Western medicine, and described with opprobrium as a ‘witch doctor’ and a purveyor of superstition and medical hazards, is playing an important role in today’s medical care services with or without licence to practice. Over 80% of Black patients visit the traditional healer before going to the medical doctor and the hospital. No record is available for those patients who are restored to good health by the traditional healer without visiting the hospital and/or the medical practitioner. Faith-based healing through the church is also on the rise. This paper thus gives a comparative exegesis of these healing institutions, how they relate to one another and provide synergy routes between modern medicine and traditional healing.

Keywords: western (modern) medicine; traditional healer; socio-magico-religious beliefs; evangelisation; syncretism


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1596-9231