Of Traditional Knowledge Systems In Zimbabwe

If you had a look at my last post, on the books I have read and reviewed in 2020 you may or may not have observed a pattern, which is that I probably don’t read non-fiction books. I am not likely to read biographies or even watch those based-on-true-stories movies, and some of those self-help motivational book feel a bit like a scam, someone whose claim to success is from telling others how to be successful…

Once, I made an errant remark about how I felt some life coaches, motivational speakers, church pastors, therapists and con man, were cut from the same cloth and just went to different tailors. I got my ear chewed off by a random stranger from the internet defending their pastor…

Small wonder we have lost a great deal of traditional knowledge people in their religious zeal have somehow managed to equate tradition with evil, inferiority and backwardness, it’s something rarely tabled in a professional space. Maybe that’s why we aren’t prospering, threw away the baby with the bath water.

I read an academic paper by Alex Magaisa Knowledge and Power: Law, Politics and Socio-cultural Perspectives on the Protection of Traditional Medical Knowledge Systems in Zimbabwe in which he aimed to explore the protection of traditional medical knowledge systems (TMK) through a combination of legal, political and socio-historical perspectives.

Traditional Medical Knowledge Systems

While the article uses field research carried out in Zimbabwe between June 2001 and June 2003 the arguments presented can be applied to Sub-Saharan Africa jurisdictions with similar characteristics.

I found this paper fascinating especially in light of the race for a cure for COVID with pharmaceutical companies patenting cures and remedies some which are derived from traditional knowledge systems others simply classified as a home remedy without any attribution to the system that has had this knowledge passed from generation to generation.

The article cited a couple of examples where pharmaceuticals reaped benefits of traditional cure such as the San people of Southern Africa who used Hoodia Gordoni plant as an appetite depressant which was later used to create a drug to help fight obesity, whose rights were owned by Pfizer at time of article publication. After a  legal battle it was eventually ruled that the San Community were entitled to some benefits.

Not having documented evidence of traditional knowledge seems to be argument used in the marginalisation of traditional knowledge… if something is not written down apparently it does not exist.

Shifting of TKS in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe shifted from a precolonial period (before1890) where Traditional Knowledge Systems were revered with its practitioners held in high regard, to a colonial period (1890-1980) where TKS was marginalised with the introduction of Western Knowledge System alongside missionaries, Christianity, education and western medicine used to demonstrate superiority of western civilisation.

The post colonial phase (1980-) which are currently in has seen an attempt at correction from the colonial period, at independence Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association was formed and in 1981 Traditional Medical Practitioners Act was passed which established the setting up of a council to oversee the registration and practice of indigenous medicine in Zimbabwe, but over the years this has largely been ineffective in carrying out its lofty resolutions.

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Interestingly the internet went crazy in the past week over a statue of the Mbuya Nehanda’s spirit medium, who was executed in 1898. Over a century later and we still struggle to reconnect with our past, I have seen some refer to the statue as idolatry while others argue over its.. inaccuracy.

The colonial period did a number on us, taught us someone else’s version of our history and civilisation, we don’t even really know who are, so much knowledge lost because ours wasnt written down.

And that is why I write

~B

You can download the paper via button below:

20 Comments

    1. I know right, the draft of this post originally went so many words I had to cut out some of it and save for a future conversation. Since this was supposed to be a non fiction book after the previous book list🤣🤣
      ~B

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  1. how I felt some life coaches, motivational speakers, church pastors, therapists and con man, were cut from the same cloth and just went to different tailors : I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for the share of the paper!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha!! Yes, I had to make sure I put it across as my own opinion and not a factual generalisation but seeing people agree means there’s something to the sentiment.
      Thanks for dropping by.
      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s about 40 pages long and even though it’s about Traditional Medical Knowledge Systems it’s a reflection of what happened to our Traditional Knowledge being oral-based and all.
      ~B

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    1. It’s weird how some people make a great deal about only reading non-fiction like they have made it in life and tend to be very patronising and dismissive towards the other kind of readers…

      I guess it’s a reflection of how most people just can’t embrace the diversity in opinions, from politics to book genre choice… Like how those guys in Gulliver’s travels went to war over which side of the egg to open first….

      And the internet and social media seems perfectly poised to fuel outrage and it feeds off it too…

      ~B

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart literally broke from reading this. We will never know who we really are because we continue to reject the teachings from our elders. Once they are gone we will not have anyone to turn to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also I feel the same way about this ”
      .. how I felt some life coaches, motivational speakers, church pastors, therapists and con man, were cut from the same cloth and just went to different tailors”

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I was thinking about that the last time had to do a family gathering and I was shocked to realise how we are becoming the elders and we hardly know anything 😕
      ~B

      Like

      1. My friend’s cousin sent his family for lobola negotiations, it was a disaster, nobody knew what to do. I am glad my paternal grandfather is still alive and is passing on the little knowledge that he has. It comes across as being diluted, but at this point this is all we have left as a family

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Omg!!!! That’s part of the reason I started and still keep this blog, an attempt at preserving the little knowledge that I come across..
        It’s diluted but at least it won’t be lost any further.
        ~B

        Liked by 1 person

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