South Africa’s Supreme court has passed up held a ruling from a lower court allowing sick notes from traditional healers to be admissible as proof of illness to an employer.
Traditional healers, Known as “sangomas”, are widely used as alternative to conventional doctors in a nation with the highest AIDS prevalence.
The Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a verdict that a Pretoria firm wrongfully sacked a chef who took five weeks leave to deal with her tormenting ancestors, a report by AFP said.
The verdict was happily welcomed by 72,000-member Traditional Healers Organization.
“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 recognized,” coordinator Phephsile Maseko told AFP.
“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 said South Africa was a multi-cultural society where traditional beliefs, social behavior and other forms of healing should be recognized.
“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 Organization 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.