The Traditional Healers Organisation says sanctions against practitioners depend on the gravity of the offence. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya/African News Agency(ANA)
The Traditional Healers Organisation says sanctions against practitioners depend on the gravity of the offence. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya/African News Agency(ANA)

Spiritual leader caught up in sexual harassment storm

By Lesego Makgatho Time of article published Sep 8, 2021

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A traditional healer who trains initiates to become future sangomas has been accused of making sexual advances on women under his spiritual guidance.

Katleho Tsilo, 26, known as Moyane Ka Nkosi from Naledi in Soweto, is alleged to have had inappropriate conversations with women trained by him under his institute of traditional healers.

The Traditional Healers Organisation says sanctions against practitioners depend on the gravity of the offence. Picture: Boxer Ngwenya/African News Agency(ANA)

Zanele Maphophe, 28, went through her initiation in 2018 and graduated in January 2019.

“When I joined the community where I went through my initiation, I picked up a lot of things, such as people being affectionate with one another.

“I noticed that some of our leaders behaved inappropriately.

“As an initiate, you are seldom given the chance to express yourself and talk about how you feel.

“All you are told to do is obey the rules.

“Obviously, when you’re still new, you don’t really know what’s going on so you suss the situation out.

“You try to understand the fundamentals and procedures,” said Maphophe.

“Based on the rules you are given when you begin the initiation process as an initiate, you are given a sit-down as to how to conduct yourself and how to behave during your journey.

“In my practice as a healer, I had young initiates come to me to tell me that Tsilo would speak to them inappropriately, as though to court them.

“This is not allowed in any way shape or form in any initiation school.

“Many of them do not know what to do,” she said.

Another initiate, Thandaza Mkhonza, said Tsilo also spoke to her inappropriately and would send her flirtatious messages.

She said she tried in vain to make him stop.

“I joined the institute in May this year.

“As a vulnerable initiate who is trying to find herself, I thought I was under the guidance of someone genuine, who would guide me in my journey but I was baffled at the flirting, especially because I’ve been told how to behave.

“I know I am not the only one. He would send inappropriate messages, saying, “I miss you”, and “I want you,” she said.

An initiate who did not want to be named said when she joined Tsilo’s institute, she noticed a change in the way he spoke to her.

He started to flirt with her and began asking to see her separately after group activities.

“He said he wanted to be the first person to sleep with me after I returned home.

“I didn’t want to do that nor involve myself with him in any way so I decided to distance myself from the situation.

“It made me very uncomfortable.

“I thought to myself, ‘Is nobody seeing this?’

“I am not the only one, and I am not the first one.

“I don’t know if it’s his game plan or what exactly.

“But he tends to take advantage of women, vulnerable initiates like myself.”

The women said they’ve tried addressing this with the Traditional Healers Organisation but very little action has been taken.

“It becomes very difficult for us as initiates because we are taken advantage of.

“We’ve tried addressing this with the association but nothing has happened.

“No action has been taken against this particular person.

“I keep asking myself where are all the others who came before us and why didn’t they protect those who are still to come and undergo this journey of ukuthwasa under his wing? It is painful,” said the woman.

The women said they had a meeting with the association stating that some initiates are unhappy with the behaviour of a particular community leader who is known to be a spiritual father.

Maphophe said the association tried to address the issue with the Gobela (the person who guides initiates to be sangomas themselves), however, the matter was dismissed because the leader in question always trains a number of initiates in a year and is well trusted in the traditional healing community.

Meanwhile, Tsilo denied the allegations that he’s behaved inappropriately.

“I’ve been a traditional healer for more than 11 years and no one has had such allegations levelled against me, claiming that I’ve used inappropriate language with them.

“We’ve got associations who deal with such matters.

“Why are they going to the media about this?

“There is an agenda going on here.

“I run a traditional healing school where I train initiates to become sangomas.

“So I follow protocol.

“I don’t behave inappropriately towards young women.

“I have never slept with any of my initiates,” he said.

The spokesperson of the Traditional Healers Organisation, Lina Masemola, said there have been incidents of misconduct reported to the organisation by initiates where they feel they have been taken advantage of.

“We have had such cases reported and we see to it that something is done.

“There is a code of conduct to abide by as traditional healers when they receive their certificates to practice as one and there are various committees within the organisation that help deal with such matters.

“When an incident of misconduct is reported, there is a disciplinary process that takes place where a meeting is held with the Gobela to speak to or address the particular person in question.

“Disciplinary action takes place in ways of warnings, and sanctions which vary from being suspended or having your certificate revoked as a traditional healer or practitioner and forbidding you to practice as a healer.

“It all depends on the offence and the degree to which that offence was committed,” said Masemola.

Masemola encouraged young initiates to come forward when acts of misconduct arise.

Those who need help can contact the Traditional Healers Organisation on (011) 337 6177.

“These incidents do take place in the traditional healing space. It’s not that they don’t.

“We encourage initiates to speak up against violence or misconduct perpetrated against them.

“By speaking up, it gives us as an organisation something to act upon and make sure there is no space for misconduct.

“Perpetrators must know that they will be dealt with accordingly if they are found guilty of gross misconduct,” she said.

Sunday Independent

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