A watershed court ruling that legally recognizes their patient sick notes has been welcomed by South African traditional healers or "sangomas".
The Supreme Court of Appeal recently upheld a verdict that a Pretoria firm wrongfully sacked a chef who took five weeks leave to deal with her tormenting ancestors.
AdvertisementIn 2007 Johanna Mmoledi's employers refused to accept a cryptic note from her sangoma diagnosing her with "perminisions (sic) of ancestors."
"The appeal was dismissed with costs," a court official told AFP Thursday.
The 72,000-member Traditional Healers Organisation welcomed the news.
"We are happy with the ruling. It shows that we are in a post-apartheid era where all forms of healing are beginning to be recognised," said coordinator Phephsile Maseko.
"It gives dignity to the practitioner and empowers the patient," she said, adding that in the past workers would consult traditional healers but would pass through medical doctors' rooms just "to buy a sick-note".
The court ruled that Mmoledi's dismissal was "substantively unfair", because she "genuinely believed that her health would be in danger had she not heeded to the calling of her ancestors".
"Her belief stemmed from deeply held cultural convictions," the judgement read.
The court said South Africa was a multi-cultural society where traditional beliefs, social behaviour and other forms of healing should be recognised.
"Also beyond dispute is that as part of these belief systems people resort to traditional healers for their physical, spiritual and emotional well-being," said the court.
The court cited a disputed World Health Organisation claim that up to 80 percent of South Africans meet their health needs through traditional medicine.
The methods include the use of herbal or animal-based potions, balms, talismans and spiritual therapies.