ZINATHA seeks assistance to patent medicines
Harare (New Ziana)-The government should assist traditional medical practitioners to have the medicines that they discover patented in order to keep them safe from illegal use by other parties, an official said on Saturday.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) president George Kandiero made the call during commemorations to mark 43 years after the association was established which were held in the capital.
A patent is intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention.
Kandiero said costs of patenting drugs are exorbitant and it is through government intervention that their members can protect medicinal inventions from other parties who may want to claim them.
Failure by traditional medical practitioners to patent their medicines have prevented them from benefiting financially after mostly Westerners take them and manufacture conventional drugs.
“We feel government intervention can save the situation for us because our inventions are being stolen and used by several parties including those in conventional medicine,” he said.
Kandiero said ZINATHA had scored a number of achievements since its formation 43 years ago including the establishment of a school of traditional medicine.
“The government has seen our importance in the medicinal field, and this helped set up the school of traditional medicine. Recently, we have also been put into the committee of drugs and substance abuse where the government has seen it fit that we also have our input,” he said.
He said a lot however still needs to be done to enable traditional practitioners to operate openly fully embrace them and assist in preserving cultural values which are slowly being eroded.
“The issue of people seeking to go to traditional healers at night should be a thing of the past because nothing sinister would actually be happening. It is on record that 85 percent of our population use traditional medicine but cannot come out in the open,” said Kandiero.
Soon after independence, the new black government actively encouraged traditional practitioners to form an association as it sought to officially recognize them following years of despise and denigration by the previous colonial administrations and early missionaries.
Many Zimbabweans, like other Africans, rely on traditional medicine for treating ailments due to its effectiveness but owing to the myths associated with the practitioners, who the white colonialists called “witch doctors”, they consult them under cover of darkness.
High costs of conventional medical care has also seen many nationals opting for traditional medicines, which are cheaper and easily accessible.
The Zimbabwe government has adopted a deliberate policy to develop traditional medicine to high standards as a way of offering citizens alternative sources of health care.
It has since established the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council which registers, regularizes and assists in building the capacity of all traditional medical practitioners in the country in an effort to competitively promote greater and safer use of traditional medical practices.
Categories of traditional practitioners in Zimbabwe include faith healers, herbalists, prophets and traditional birth attendants.