Their adverts have been met with a lot of controversy. Most are cynical. Others simply ignore them and a number goes ahead to call their bluff.
I am talking about the Ngaka ya Setswana whose adverts claim miracles even surgery can’t accomplish. Some can cure smoking while others brag about enlarging one’s manhood.
Some call themselves the “bedroom doctors” and brag about making her/him love you, giving you sexual prowess in bed and for women, increasing body parts or fluids that are linked to sex.
After reading and scoffing at one too many of these, I went to find out exactly what and how they achieve the unachievable. In Tlokweng, opposite Mopipi restaurant was where one such doctor advertised his ‘surgery.’
With no idea of what to expect, I wasn’t very obvious in my search for him lest people think I had a problem that needs whatever extreme methods they resort to.
I was shocked to find about seven of these rooms all advertising Ngaka ya Setswana and the problems they could heal. No one batted an eye as I hurriedly dashed into one, deciding any one is as good as the one that advertised. He was very welcoming and asked me what the problem was.
I told him I crave to enlarge my manhood since I was a bit slack. He assured me he could fix the problem in only three days for the price of P2 500. I tried to get him to lower the price in vain.
“Many men are like you,” he said in Setswana. “The only way to keep your woman from straying is this and the money is little compared to the results.”
He pulled out herbs that I was supposed to drink but wouldn’t give away any information until he was given the money.
Promising to get back, I slid into yet another room and was surprised when people paid me no attention. I could have been going to any shop for all they cared.
In this one, I told them about a friend who wanted to lose weight and confided that he has prostrate cancer. The friend had to pay P4 500 depending on how bad it was.
He had no machine to examine me but he was sure whatever size, the medicine he would give me to swallow would work.
“Of course it’s for swallowing,” he said “Why would I give him medicine to work in the body and give it to him to use it elsewhere?”
He felt no need to reply the ‘does it work’ question. He wouldn’t show me the wonder herbs and I left promising to be back with his money. Copying a few numbers from the banners hanging over the rooms, I made for Kanye, another region notorious for Ngaka ya Setswana.
These are more spread out and I had to grit my teeth when asking for directions.
The first one I found looked like any other businessman with his hair recently cut and putting on goggles.
I told him I had a friend who was physically challenged and needed him to help me give him an inch or two more. Praising his herbs and skills, he encouraged me to bring him since it would be almost useless to deal through me. I told him he would never come since he is a born ÔÇô again Christian and I wanted a way to do it so that he never finds out.
I told him he was a staunch believer, and jovial; he said he could help me in two ways. He would give me medicine to give to his wife to give him in food to make him active (since he had figured that he didn’t) then he would be willing to comply with the size increase.
He made a convincing argument and if there had been a desperate wife, he would have won them over.
“This is not witchcraft and many are still married because they consulted me,” he reassured me. He too was hesitant to reveal his techniques but said the love potion was to be drunk and to use it to spike the wife’s meals.
This would make him give off sexual signals and attract his wife. He didn’t have a ready answer when I asked about the possibility of attracting other women other than the target. For the price of P4 500, my friend was guaranteed happiness. He had a few other offers like a cure for asthma and getting rid of the signs of HIV in case I had willing friends.
He, like the last Ngaka ya Setswana, insisted on taking my number lest I forget to return for the products. We started talking and I complimented him on his looks stating that the business must be good. He agreed and he told me how he had put up three kombis on different routes from his Ngaka ya Setswana business.
He had many customers and when satisfied (like they usually are), they recommend other people.
I asked if the manhood enlargement worked and he said it was so good one man now has four girlfriends yet he rarely dated. He promised my friend would be able to walk around naked without a worry.
True to his word, he called when I failed to show up.
The last one I visited was even more confident. He could change the sex of an unborn child from female to male at the price of P6 000. For something that is yet to be achieved by science, I was all ears. I told him my girlfriend was pregnant and four months along.
One look at me, he assured me she was not. He insisted even when I told him she had done tests. He later asked me to take heart, now that I had visited him; my girlfriend is going to give birth to the coveted baby boy.
He took me aside and showed me a cowry shell promising that my answer lay in its content. He had a glazed look and a strong grip on my hand, forcing me to feign a phone call and get away from him.
Lerato, a third time mother of 6 years, 4 years and eight months says that Ngaka ya Setswana have nothing to do with witchcraft. She was given medicine (Molemo) to drink during her pregnancy and she was in labour only for one hour. Her cramps were less painful than the average pregnant woman and the medicine did its purpose of enlarging her hips for purposes of pushing.
Even after giving birth, she still depends on the Ngaka ya Setswana a lot. Her daughter didn’t suffer with colic and the ‘molemo’ herbs infant showers protect her from the rashes most children her age get.
Although she is not so keen on the penis enlargement and prostrate cancer treatment, she encourages people with problems and all pregnant mothers to consult Ngaka ya Setswana.
“Not everything can be done by medical doctors and if it wasn’t for my Ngaka ya Setswana and his medicine, my stitches would have taken ages to heal. Even the doctors said I had a remarkable pregnancy,” she insists.
One thing I noticed, however, is that most, if not all, Ngaka ya Setswana are Batswana.
Dr Tlali Tshepo, a private practitioner was adamant that such ‘doctors’ are not recognized as a medical profession. When asked why then they advertise without a problem, he said they are not allowed to.
“The medical body has a code of conduct which prohibits doctors from advertising. Since these are not under the body, they can’t be punished accordingly,” he explains, adding, “They can only be stopped from masquerading by other bodies like the Ministry of Health”.
There is also a system where public and private practices make a partnership and jointly benefit from each other. However, the private practice needs to be formally registered in order to do this. Most, if not all these Ngaka ya Setswana, are not formally registered.
The pastor in one of the local churches, Robert Sambo, was also unwavering about the fact that they should not go round advertising. “They are cheating the public and claiming dangerous medicine. How can a person claim to heal HIV?” he asked.
He also explained that it was the medical chamber in charge of putting a stop to their practices. He says the public is at the mercy of the medical chambers and the police. He also urged media houses to expose some of these evil practices. They too have to take a step in fighting the illicit Ngaka ya Setswana business.