(First appeared in New Era 24 June 2015)
The past week I was forced to pay an extended visit to my bed to get rid of the flu. In my family, my Mother believes in quite a few “home remedies” including Boegoe Brandy, Jamaica Ginger and of course the trusted vaporub and med-lemon. Some of these remedies are also known as “Hollandse medisyne” (Dutch medicines) and can be found in most supermarkets. There are “cures” for stomach aches, headaches, burping children and even chasing away evil spirits. Yes, one of the medicines are used in drawing a cross on the forehead of a child when you have no idea what else to try – and this chases away the evil! Some of us may ridicule these “cures”, but ask any parent whose child has the hiccups whether putting a piece of paper on their forehead helps?
While being in bed I came across an insert in one of our daily papers for the services of a witchdoctor. Normally I would refer to a person giving advice handed down from our forefathers as a traditional healer, but in this case the advert was for a witchdoctor, or how else could he also offer cures for being lovesick? I looked through several of our newspapers and found one paper that had thirty-two (32) classified adverts for traditional healers. A typical advert reads: “Dr Mwita: Bring back lost lovers, bad-luck, witchcraft protection, men power, employment, pregnancy, remove tokolosh. Money in your account in 20 minutes to get rich.”
When reading these adverts I realised that the people placing these adverts must obviously get clients otherwise why would they continue to place the adverts at their expense every day. Secondly, it does not seem to worry them that the issues they offer to resolve are not medicinal, but rather emotional. Lastly, most readers would question why these same traditional healers are offering to make you rich but are themselves not endowed with much riches themselves.
As a consumer activist, my conscience is prickled by this dilemma: “What recourse would a client have if after they have paid for the services of the traditional healer, they do not receive their monies worth in product or service? The Ministry of Health and Social Services is working with traditional healers and trying to cut out the obvious jokers or scammers, but this will only work if there is a set of criteria for these practitioners as well as a method of punishing those who abuse their position.
Having grown up in a western Christian culture, I must also ask of myself is there a major difference in going to a building, praying for what I desire and then paying money into the collection plate? What recourse do I have if my prayers are not answered? How far may a religious organisation go in promising me certain rewards (on earth) and when can I demand my money back if these are not kept?
While most welfare organisations and churches are doing a good job in Namibia, unfortunately, some have not. They have abused their mandate or become a vehicle for an individual who is seen as the driving force or even “responsible for the success of the organisation”. This leads to the next question, “How do we distinguish between a good and bad Non-governmental organisation?”
The following questions provide us with a litmus test: a) Are their financial statements open for scrutiny? b) What percentage of their budget is spent on salaries and perks for the organisations employees? c) What part of the budget is contributed by governments, directly or indirectly? d) How many of the NGO's operatives are in the field, catering to the needs of the NGO's constituents? e) Which part of the budget is spent on furthering the aims of the NGO and on implementing its programmes?
I suggest that we have Non-Government Organisation law. In this law we should be address the issues of mandate and good governance, and the mechanisms in the case of abuse. It should include a restraint on creation of new, frequently unnecessary, NGOs (that are mostly more helpful to the creators of the NGO than the people they are designed to serve).