The use of traditional medicine in the tswana cultural setup is still relevant today. Even in the buzz and hustle of Gaborone’s streets traditional medicine, dubbed “Ditswammung”, is gaining popularity.
Young and old people stop by stalls that offer different types of medicines. Herbalists who sell these medicinal plants are women with decades in this business. Once restricted to backyards, the service is becoming accessible to customers in open areas.
Herbalists confidently state that they are making a killing from those who suffer from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). These diseases heighten the risk of contracting HIV/AIDs among the youth and old alike. Medicinal plants that are always available for STDs are Lethole, Thotamadi, Sekaname, monepenepe, moringa and motsetse.
One herbalist, Elizabeth Madeluka, says she takes her clients through consultation before she dispatches different medicinal plants for different STDs.
“Some of them at times try to hide but we always advise them to come out of the cocoon. When they have developed sores in their private parts, I provide them with medicine to heal such sores. It is up to them if they fail to apply it. We always advise them to come for checkups in order for us to confirm that the medicine is working accordingly,” said Madeluka.
During the interview, a man in his early thirties stops by the stall. He greets the herbalist who confidently responds and asks him where he has been hiding. She quickly inquires about his health and he responds that he needs to speak in private, away from the hearing of this writer. His reasoning is that even at the clinic, a patient sees a nurse alone for consultation.
The herbalist quickly stands up and meets the client behind a stall. She comes back, fetches a plastic and pours a powder into it. She explains to him that he has to use the powder bath whenever he takes a bath. “There is no need to put a lot of powder. Just a small amount will do,” explains Madeluka. The customer says goodbye to her, assuring her that he will return.
Although she goes to church to worship on Sunday, Madeluka still practices as a herbalist. She confidently states that she believes in God and that no one would ever throw her out of the church because of her trade.
“I pray to God for this medicine to work. I am not keeping this medicine to kill people,” she said.
Madeluka is worried about a growing trend among young women who come and ask for assistance after committing abortion. She said that they always come and complain that they have menstruation problems.
“We advise them to bring their boyfriends with them whenever there is something suspicious about them,” she says.
Madeluka also helps children who are suffering from different illness; she says children often become sick whenever their fathers visit them after they are delivered at the hospitals.
“It’s a taboo in our culture for men to visit the young ones after birth. A man should undergo tswana ceremonial cleansing before he comes into contact with the child. If he comes closer to the newly born baby, she might get sick. That is where I come in to give such children medicine to heal,” she added.
Madeluka is happy that the University of Botswana’s Chemistry department is always buying medicine from them.
“At last we are appreciated unlike in the past when herbalists were relegated to the dark corners of this world,” she said.