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Please Don't Dump Your Baby
Journalist/muckraker/sleuth for hire Paul McNally sends this photograph he snapped of a poster providing information on a legal way to give up the care of your child.
Muti for Lotto
Muti is the colloquial term for herbal medicine in South Africa. Sometimes Muti can cure you of ailments that aren't medical, such as not winning the lottery. The term Muti can have negative connotations because of the occurrence of Muti killings, where humans are killed for their body parts to be used as ingredients in Muti. I'm not sure how common Muti murders actually are in South Africa, but I do see them being reported in tabloids.
Is this any more dubious than official lottery advertising?
I've been collecting these from my post box for a few months now. I'm not sure when they started as a trend, but I'm pretty sure they are becoming more common. I've heard the stereotype before that Malawians are hard working and honest. Since I've begun collecting these slips a few months ago I have only found one that did not state the person's Malawian nationality. I suppose many Malawians seeking domestic labour jobs are aware of the stereotype that they are hardworking and honest and use it to their competitive advantage.
Strangely, this contradictory advertisement was written on the back of the slip.
A rant on herbalism in South Africa.
This brief article from the Mail and Guardian reports that 13 family members died in KwaZulu Natal after ingesting a concoction of herbs that their son, a trainee herbalist, had put together for them.
A large part of the herbalism industry that isn't apparent from the fliers that I post to this site is the damage it does to people. The article given above is an extreme example, but the harm done by herbalism is extensive and real.
The type of herbalist found in the article is different from that seen in Snake Powers fliers. The herbalist in the article was being trained by a member of their community to take on a traditional role of their culture. The herbalists advertising through the fliers I post are from foreign cultures (from other parts of Africa) and seem to be parasitic. My gripe with both is the same though: medicines should not be administered without being subjected to trials to test for their efficiency and safety. This is a tall order.
I find it difficult to imagine effective measures to control herbalism. In the case of the charlatans preying on the masses of poor and desperate people in this country, the ideal solution probably isn't in legislation, but rather in public education. Apart from the very serious cases where herbalists perform abortions and promise to cure AIDS, the most that they could be accused of is false advertising. The same sort of industry caters for upper class society in Homeopathy and the like (check out Ben Goldacre's Bad Science for a wealth of examples), but selling junk products by promising a better life seems harmless when the customers are able to afford it. Sadly the people tricked by herbalists promising a solution to their unemployment problems "within 24 hours or your money back" are usually not as easily able cope with the herbs not delivering results.
A large reason why South Africans are so easily tricked into believing that herbs could solve their marriage problems is the persisting existence of 'traditional healers' and the belief in supernatural powers. The South African government quite rightly does not want to erode traditional cultures. In the case of not eroding the cultural roles of herbalists or 'traditional healers' this is often accompanied by the belief that subjecting traditional African healers to the same regulatory criteria as western medicine is presupposing that western medicine and regulations are better than those of African traditional healers. This belief is championed by the South African health minister, who is still around despite strongly supporting the move to treat AIDS in South Africa with garlic and beetroot instead of 'western' antiretrovirals. She said in 2008 that traditional African healers should not be "bogged down by clinical trials" as they had been in use for thousands of years.
A problem illustrated by the tragic case of the 13 family members accidental poisoning is that allowing traditional healers free reign, which can potentially be fatal. However, subjecting healers to the same protocols as other medicines would be impossible, if not because of the difficulty of enforcing such a deeply entrenched cultural practice, then because this would require such a large amount of funding that it would massively reduce the healers' ability to compete. This would infringe on African culture in an unacceptable way. So, although a move to regulate traditional healers would appear to encroach on African tradition to appease western methods, it effectively deprives people belonging to African cultures of the benefits of western standards.
[Edit: Simone points out that a large part of the problem is that most people who use traditional healers in South Africa do not have access to adequate healthcare and rely on herbalism as no alternative is present. She suggests that improving access to healthcare would be the ideal solution to the dangers of untested herbs.
Physicians per 100,000
France - 329
UK - 166
South Africa - 69
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