19th July 2010
Summary and analysis of Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No. 22 of 2007)
It has been estimated that more than 80% of people in African use traditional medicine1. Whilst population-based studies in South Africa indicate a decline in the use of traditional healing2, the number of traditional health practitioners is quite substantial, totalling approximately 190,0003. Traditional health practitioners play an important part in the lives of a large part of the South African population. “The Traditional Health Practitioners Bill was drafted to address the issue that despite their importance as a health resource, traditional healers had no legal status in South Africa, and therefore, not officially recognised as health care personnel. In 1994, the only legislation that related indirectly to traditional healers was the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No.3 of 1957), which sought to outlaw the practice of traditional healing. Since the first democratic elections in 1994, traditional healers have been collaborating with government for the purpose of obtaining formal recognition for traditional health practitioners.”4
During 2006, an organisation called Doctors for Life International (DFL) applied to the Constitutional Court challenging the constitutionality of a number of legislation, including the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No. 35 of 2004). The Court declared the Act invalid, due to lack of sufficient public participation suspending the order of invalidity for a period of 18 months to allow Parliament to re-enact the statute in a manner consistent with the Constitution. On the 7th January 2008 the Traditional Health Practitioners was signed by the President. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act5 aims to:
Establish the Interim Health Practitioners Council of South Africa. Provide for a regulatory framework to ensure efficacy, safety and quality of traditional health care services. To provide for the management and control over the registration, training and conduct of practitioners, students and specified categories in the traditional health practitioners profession. To provide for matters connected therewith.
This paper provides a summary and analysis of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act:
Chapter 1: Definitions
Chapter 1 lists definitions used in the Act. It then describes the purpose of the Act, as described above, to:
1) Establish the Interim Health Practitioners Council of South Africa. 2) Provide for the registration, training and practises of traditional health practitioners. 3) Serve and protect the interests of members of the public who use the services of traditional health practitioners. This Act applies to both traditional health practitioners and students engaged in or learning traditional health practice.
Chapter 2: Establishment and governance of Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa
Section 4 aims to establish the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council. The term of office of the Council is three years, which may be extended by the Minister for a period up to 24 months.
The objectives of the Council, amongst others, are to:
Promote public health awareness
Ensure the quality of health services within the traditional health practice. Protect and serve the interests of members of the public who use or are affected by the services of traditional health practitioners. Promote and maintain appropriate ethical and professional standards required from traditional health practitioners. Promote contact between the various fields of training within traditional health practise and to set standards for such training. Compile and maintain a professional code of conduct for traditional health practice. Ensure that traditional health practice conforms to universally accepted health care norms and values.
The Council will, therefore, be responsible for:
Issuing guidelines for traditional health practices...
References: Makani-Mansomi, B. (2007) Summary and analysis of Traditional Health Practitioners Bill [B20-2007]. Research Unit: Parliament of South Africa. Unpublished.
Nyika, A. (2007) Ethical and regulatory issues surrounding African Traditional Medicine in the context of HIV/AIDS. In Developing World Bioethics, Vol. 7, Issue 1, pp.25-34. [Accessed on-line 30th June 2010] Available from < http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/user/accessdenied?ID=117981447&Act=2138&Code=4719&Page=/cgi-bin/fulltext/117981447/PDFSTART>
Pelzer, K. (2009). Traditional health practitioners in South Africa, The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9694, 19th September 2009. [Accessed on-line 7th May 2010] Available from < http://www.lancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)61261-7/fulltext >
Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No. 22 of 2007).
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