The main reason is that most healers and sellers suspect the motives of the government in this initiative. This being the case, only 1,000 traditional healers and sellers of medicinal herbs have been registered since the exercise kicked off in September, last year.
The State had envisaged a registration of 75,000 healers and sellers. This, indeed, is an incredible situation. It has been determined that some healers hide their faces from visiting registration officials because of a historical mishap that occurred during the German colonial era. The Germans are believed to have arrested and executed traditional healers in then Tanganyika. But this is not the only reason.
Traditional healers in this country are, invariably, underworld characters who carry out their activities in secrecy. In some cases, what they do to heal the sick can be surreal and frightening. Many spread on the ground or mat a curious array of objects. These can include amulets, fetishes, bones, sticks, roots, pebbles, feathers, animal skins, seashells, calabashes, pots, quills, bark powders and liquids that the uninitiated might not recognize.
People who consult traditional healers come from all walks of life. They include prominent business people, politicians, educationists, clerics, law enforcers, students, and peasants and even trained medical workers. When diagnosing the illness, the healer speaks in an incomprehensible guttural voice that usually tappers off to a murmur, then to an eerie silence.
So, situations like these could frighten or put off some of those who visit traditional herbal healers. It is imperative to mention that traditional healers have been using rituals and herbal remedies to treat the sick for generations.
A number of these medicines seem to be effective where modern science has failed. Yet for some reason, modern science is (erroneously) regarded as infallible. It is faith in modern medicine that has thrown herbal healers into dim light. Some people regarded them as primitive witch doctors. Some are feared and even ostracized. Herbal healers suffered degradation during the colonial years and the canker still exists today.
Whatever the case, traditional medicine has sustained many communal settings for generations and the government in this country respects the work of healers. The government says the intention of the registration exercise is to introduce and popularize herbal healers and sellers to the public so they work more freely.
But most healers and sellers remain underground doing their business clandestinely. Some healers and sellers of herbal cures conduct their activities in churches and mosques. Others conduct their activities in travelling upcountry buses. This development has taken the government aback for; it means this crop of traders has no address.
Some of them are likely to be quacks who sell objects or liquids that do not have medicinal potency. Cheats like these may be difficult to trace because they keep moving from one place to another. We wish to allay the fears of faithful traditional healers and sellers of herbal cures. They should come forward and register.
The State has a good intention in this matter – to popularize their activities. And, there is no ill motive behind the crusade. Those who heal the sick or sell unregistered herbal products do so in contravention of the Traditional and Alternative Medicines Act 2002. So do quacks who offer bogus services or sell fake herbal concoctions. The long arm of the law will eventually catch up with them.