What Zimbabwe legislators said about traditional medicine- Doubt Ndiweni


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HON. NDIWENI: Thank you Madam Speaker Maam.  This is a topic that is deep. This is a topic I have interest in.  Traditional Medicines are so downplayed in this country when they are so important for us.  If you look at statistics in Zimbabwe, traditional medicines are used by almost two thirds of the population.  Some of us use traditional medicines behind closed doors.  Some people use traditional medicines openly but statistics say two thirds of the population use traditional medicines.  So what it means is that two thirds of Parliamentarians also use traditional medicines.

The problem that we are facing in Zimbabwe is when  people grow up and they think they have a little bit of money, then they start looking at traditional medicines as being inferior to European or Western medicines.  What they are not aware of is that most of the so called Western medicines that they take, the active ingredients come from our own traditional medicines.  So the problem that we are facing in Zimbabwe is we are not doing much in terms of research.  We cannot blame Government on this challenge that we are facing that is downplaying traditional medicines.  Government has put in policies.  Government has put the Traditional Healers and Traditional Medicines Act in place but it is how to operationalise these Acts.  How to implement them, there are people in offices that feel traditional medicine is inferior.  I am of the opposite view, I believe in traditional medicines. I used traditional medicines as I grew up and I still use traditional medicines now.

There is need Madam Speaker Ma’am, for traditional medicines to be effective – it is 40 years after independence, by now we should be having a trolley run of our own traditional medicines. Here we are, an independent Zimbabwe, we have indigenous leaders who are aware of the importance and effectiveness of traditional medicines.  What we should have done in the 40 years is to take all the traditional medicines that are known, take them into laboratories, test the active ingredients, find out what works because these medicines worked.  There is no traditional medicine that is said to alleviate stomach ache that does not alleviate a stomach ache.  So they do have active ingredients.

What we should have done as scientists was to take all these drugs of traditional healers, take them to laboratories, test them, find out what active ingredients are there and thereafter we dosage them.  We find the correct dose and we package them.  Then, most important, we should also patent these medicines because what happens is these traditional medicines that have been tested and are being used already have dosages but people forgot to patent them.  So what happens is a clever Western Scientist comes to Zimbabwe, he realises that this drug is used for anxiety and it is used in Zimbabwe.  He takes the drugs and goes with it and tests it in the laboratory and they patent it.  In the end, our own traditional medicines – we cannot claim, because it is patented by somebody who does not even know where we got the roots of that traditional medicine from.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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