What Zimbabwe legislators said about traditional medicine- Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga




MDC Matabeleland South legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga

HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you Madam Speaker.  Let me join my colleagues in thanking Hon. Masango and Hon. Toffa for bringing this very important motion to the House.  I particularly am quite excited because I think this shows a mindset shift in us as legislators but also as Zimbabwe.  I think for a long time we have been fed with this mantra that anything that is African is by its very nature bad.  This is why we have destroyed the things that have gotten us to get better and embed things that are coming from outside that have not necessarily been very good for us.

COVID-19 is a very good example.  No one has said why when everybody had predicted that with COVID-19, we would be finding dead bodies in the streets in Africa.  That is what the Western media had fed us with, that we were going to die like flies.  We have realised that in fact, it is in the West that people have died more than the people in Africa.  So there must be something that is African that we were able to do well.  Our only problem is that we never research to find out.  Somebody should have really worked on trying to find out what it is that protected us as Africa even with minimum health facilities.

Let us just look at what is happening in India right now. India is seen as the global hospital, it is the pharmaceutical centre but it has statistics of close to about 20 million COVID-19 infections as we speak right now.  The United States has equally bad numbers but they have the infrastructure, medicines, doctors and nurses.  So something must have happened that got us protected from COVID-19.  Unfortunately, all we can do is to suspect – perhaps it was zumbani, maybe we were steaming ourselves or it was something else because no one bothered to do some research.  I think that is the folly of Africa, that we will never be able to get the information that we need.

I just want to give you two examples Madam Speaker.  When I was growing up, I used to have serious period pain such that I would not be able to go to school for three to four days; dysmenorrhea is what they call it.  If you went to a doctor, the first thing that they would tell you even when you were aged 14, was that you needed to be given family planning tablets.  That is what would manage.  It is actually medical treatment that they give for people with dysmenorrhea.  I just happened to have an uncle who was a herbalist and all I started doing was that I would get – I will say its name in Ndebele, because my uncle is Ndebele, I used to get ntolwane.  So just before I went for my periods I would take ntolwane and I never suffered from dysmenorrhea, yet today every other child that is having period pains is rushing to the pharmacy to get panadol and painstop which in certain circumstances is addictive and that for me is just a sign of how we have not been able to use the things that we are supposed to have.

We used to have what were called traditional birth attendants and they were very good in Africa.  You only would refer a woman to go and give birth in hospital if you thought that there would be complications.  The traditional birth attendants, when they were looking at you, were able to actually say you have a breach, therefore go to hospital.  We destroyed the traditional birth attendants and yet as we speak right now in Europe if you have money you will give birth at home and yet for Africa we were told that giving birth at home showed that you were poor.  Now the Europeans themselves are giving birth at home.  They have their own traditional birth attendants, but for us we have destroyed that structure of traditional birth attendants.  So I think this conversation needs to go beyond just the help and the health facilities to say as an African person, at the very least be proud of your Africanness and celebrate that level of Africanness.

Marijuana is one example.  Europe is now asking us to grow mbanje for them because they have now realised it is medicinal, but for many years the white person came here and said if you were caught with mbanje, you would be arrested and yet they themselves are now passing laws to legalise marijuana. This is because it is now clear that it works around chronic illnesses like cancer; it works around issues of anxiety and mental illness, but for the African, nothing happened.  Now, what are we doing because we never got ourselves organised around this, we are now being used as the people who grow mbanje for them to then make medicines and we remain poor.  So this conversation – this is why I said for me, this is exciting because it gives us a different mindset in beginning to say how do we make our structures purely African and not necessarily go that direction.

In summary, Madam Speaker, I know that there are people who are coming to this House speaking about how we need to go GMO.  Again, it contradicts some of these fundamental things that we are talking about.  Traditional medicine is by its nature good because it is organic and if there is anything that we need to protect, it is our fields, vana Pfumvudza vatirikuita ivava because that is where the world is going to, but now those that want to make money will come and say go the direction of GMO, yet if you go to the United Kingdom right now and you want to buy eggs, the eggs that are organic are more expensive than the eggs that come from chickens that are GMO fed.

So we need to really start thinking and ask ourselves each time we are given these things what it means about destroying the things that can get us to live. Like I said, Madam Speaker, I am glad that covid-19 has shown us that at least there is something good that as Africans we are able to do, because everybody had taken us to the graves.  We were all supposed to have died but yes, God came in. I am sure there is something traditional that got us to survive this epidemic.  I thank you Madam Speaker.

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