Healers on par with MDs

05 December 2013 - 02:01

When an employee gives his boss a sick note from a traditional healer it should be taken as seriously as a certificate from a qualified medical doctor, the Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled.

Following a unanimous judgment , Judge Azhar Cachalia has ordered the reinstatement of Johanna Mmoledi, a section chef sacked by the Kievits Kroon Country Estate, near Pretoria, in 2007.

Mmoledi was fired after attending a course on traditional healing and not returning to work.

Noting that 80% of South Africans met their "physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing" needs through the use of traditional medicine, the court held that a traditional healer's sick note should be considered the equivalent of a doctor's. (Updated: Africa Check has debunked this figure)

Mmoledi claimed her absence from work was caused by "circumstances" beyond her control.

She said she had received a "calling from her ancestors" that she be trained as a traditional healer.

Mmoledi said she was "sick because she saw visions of her ancestors" and had been "disturbed in her spirits".

She had had a "fearful apprehension" that she would suffer "serious misfortune" - perhaps even death - if she did not become a traditional healer.

Mmoledi's employer had allowed her to attend a traditional healer's course in the afternoons for two months. A month later, she asked for five weeks of unpaid leave to attend the course.

Her employer, Stephen Walter, said he could allow her only a week because the spa was short-staffed.

Mmoledi nevertheless attended the course. She left a traditional healer's letter on the desk of the estate's human resources manager.

Walters fired her for disobeying an instruction to report for duty and for being absent from work without permission.

Cachalia found that the dismissal was due to a "cultural chasm", and Walters had failed to appreciate that Mmoledi's experiences constituted "an illness".