Community Eye

with Ngwindi Ngwindingwindi

‘Sangomas’ storm Harare Central Business District

Presumably, it is cries of economic hardships in the country or some unique opportunity that has springed up and propelled citizens to become more enterprising so as to start unusual business ventures in some least expected places around the country. Or perhaps citizens misunderstood the presidential mantra of ‘Zimbabwe is open for business‘.

We have witnessed over the years a surge in religious organisations and medical facilities in different parts of the country; all probably due to high demand for health and soul reparations. Herbalists and pseudo-herbalists have also decided they cannot be outdone, since they also offer or claim to offer virtually similar services.

A stroll in the streets of the country’s largest city, Harare, will give a sore tickle to the eye with sights of queer packaging displayed on pavements all over the city. These are herb vendors at work, and in some cases you find them practicing sangoma acts on the streets (kushopera).

What therefore demands understanding is whether the city has devised this as a traditional herbs exhibition tactic, or perhaps they have realised that citizens are in dire need of alternative health remedies, since pharmaceutical drugs are beyond the reach of many in the country. There have been operations to rid the city of undesignated vending and illegal activities; but herbal vending seems to be sprawling and spreading like veld fires, and is allowed to be like that; operating freely even on the doorstep of the City’s Cleveland House just behind the main Town House.

There are therefore questions which can be asked pertaining this kind of vending activity:

Where are they sourcing the herbs from?

How authentic are the herbs which are allowed to be sold openly on the streets?

Are the vendors licensed to dispense those herbs, and who regulates their operations?

Who approves authenticity of the herbs; that is to verify if they are not harmful for human consumption?

To answer some of these questions I would suggest that the issue be looked into and probably devise some measures in terms of regulation and rearrangement of the order. I know for sure that the city authorities and government institutions are aware of these activities, but I implore them to take action and bring some sanity in the state of affairs of this city which appears to be on autopilot.

I may have no authority in my assumptions, but deeper instinct tells me that some of these are dangerous drugs which come in the form of herbs or are just a disguise for peddling illicit drugs. Our society has since been ravaged by abuse of dangerous substances which I strongly believe are being dispensed to the public in different forms; these street herbalists cannot be an exception. We have many people who are suffering as a result of consuming substances whose sources are largely spurious.

The authorities need to intervene as we risk losing a lot of people out of desperation to boost sexual prowess. Hardships may cause low sexual drive leading people to source for stimulations; hardships may cause one to dry up random tree bucks and leaves and sell to unsuspecting public as a vhuka-vhuka herb. We therefore have two parties who are in desperate situations and are trying to boost sex appetite and income respectively. My independent small survey revealed to me that the largest chunk of clientele for these pseudo-herbalists are male citizens who seek sexual boosters, much more than those who seek herbs for cancers and other diseases. Citizens must be protected against some of these heinous acts.

Why are we having these herbalists on our streets? I would like to believe that the authorities will somehow respond to this question or questions in their own ways at some point. I am one among thousands of citizens who have noticed and have been eager to know why we have this going on like that. This is our city together, all of us; I know for sure ZINATHA, the Medicines Control Authority body, the city health department and all relevant organizations have seen the chaos I have highlighted in this piece of writing. It is therefore incumbent upon responsible departments to justify or correct what I personally perceive to be a menace in our society.

To fellow citizens, I advise that we be careful on the things that we consume out of desperation or addiction. Some of these herbs are being sold by unscrupulous people whose aim is not for your good but for easy dollars into their purses. Let us all be cautious of our health because the consequences of taking some of these fictitious substances may ruin our lives beyond restoration. So, it is our responsibility to guard ourselves from being destroyed by uncouth practices in our midst.

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