During the colonial period, although huge amounts of funds were allocated to the allopathic medical sector, no budgetary provisions were made for the traditional medical sector. Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 marked a turning point in the long antagonistic relationship between allopathic and traditional medicine. The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) was formed the same year, having been proposed at a meeting of 100 prominent traditional medical practitioners and Government officials organized by the then Minister of Health, Dr H. Ushewokunze.
The goals of ZINATHA are to promote traditional medicine and practice, promote research into traditional medicine and methods of healing, promote training in the art of herbal and spiritual healing, supervise the practice of traditional medicine and prevent abuse and quackery, and cooperate with the Ministry of Health to establish better working relations between traditional and allopathic practitioners.
In 1994, there were 11,000 workers in the allopathic health system in Zimbabwe. At the same time, ZINATHA had 24,000 qualified members. There are now over 55,000 traditional medicine practitioners registered with ZINATHA. There are chiropractors practicing in Zimbabwe.
In Zimbabwe, the Minister of Health presides over both allopathic and traditional health sectors. In 1981, two significant statutes on the practice of traditional medicine were enacted in Zimbabwe. The comprehensive scope of these acts provides a sharp contrast to the general legalization on the practice of traditional medicine adopted in other jurisdictions. The Natural Therapists Act of 1981 regulates the organization and registration of natural therapists, a term that includes homeopaths, naturopaths, and osteopaths. It is an offence for an unregistered person to engage in the practice of these professions for gain or to claim to be a registered natural therapist. Licensing legislation regulates the educational standards and practice of chiropractic.
The Traditional Medical Practitioners Council Act of 1981 is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation on the practice of traditional medicine that has been enacted anywhere in the world. Under the terms of the Act, the practice of traditional medicine includes every act the object of which is to treat, identify, analyse, or diagnose, without the application of operative surgery, any illness of the body or mind by traditional methods. The Traditional Medical Practitioners Council Act recognizes ZINATHA as the association for traditional medicine practitioners in Zimbabwe. This legislation also created the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council.
The objectives of the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council are to supervise the control and practice of traditional medical practitioners, promote the practice of traditional medical practitioners, foster research into traditional medical practice, develop knowledge of traditional medical practice, hold inquiries for the purpose of the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council Act, and make grants or loans to associations or persons where the Council considers this necessary or desirable for, or incidental to, the attainment of the purposes of the Council.
The Minister of Health is to appoint a registrar to establish a register of traditional medicine practitioners. The Traditional Medical Practitioners Council is to grant an application for registration if it is satisfied that the applicant possesses sufficient skill and ability to practice traditional medicine and is of good character. Where appropriate, the Council may grant the applicant a qualification as a spirit medium. The Minister of Health may also grant registration as an honorary traditional medical practitioner, with or without qualification as a spirit medium, to traditional practitioners of special standing. Registered practitioners may use the title “Registered Traditional Medical Practitioner” or “Registered Spirit Medium”.
An unregistered person commits an offence punishable by up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine if he or she practices or carries on business for gain as a traditional medical practitioner, whether or not purporting to be registered; pretends, or by any means whatsoever holds himself or herself out to be a registered traditional medical practitioner; or uses the title “Registered Traditional Medical Practitioner” or any name, title, description, or symbol indicating or calculated to lead persons to infer that he or she is registered as a traditional medical practitioner. Falsely claiming to be a registered spirit medium constitutes a similar offence.
The Council has the authority to make by-laws to define “improper and disgraceful conduct” in the case of registered traditional medical practitioners. A registered practitioner who is found guilty of such conduct or who is grossly incompetent is liable to disciplinary measures, which include cancellation or temporary suspension of registration.