Sick certificates issued by South African traditional health practitioners: Current legislation, challenges and the way forward

Nompumelelo Mbatha, Renee Anne Street, Mlungisi Ngcobo, Nceba Gqaleni


Traditional health practitioners (THPs) play a significant role in South African healthcare. However, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) does not consider sick notes issued by THPs to be valid. This creates a dilemma for employees, whose right to consult a practitioner of their choice is protected by the Constitution. We assessed the current legislation and highlight the challenges that employees face in selecting a healthcare system of their choice. The services of THPs represent an untapped capacity that can complement and strengthen healthcare services, especially in the workforce. The BCEA legislative technicality, coupled with the delayed establishment of the Interim THP Council, does not relieve the employer’s burden of ‘illegitimate’ medical certificates issued by THPs. While seen as a dilemma for some employers, others have accommodated African cultural beliefs and accept THP-issued sick notes. Finalising the Interim THP Council will
allow THP registration and oblige employers to honour sick notes issued by THPs. The empowerment of THPs to play a meaningful role in healthcare delivery is of national importance.

Authors' affiliations

Nompumelelo Mbatha, Traditional Medicine Laboratory, University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN),

Renee Anne Street, Traditional Medicine Laboratory, University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN),

Mlungisi Ngcobo, Traditional Medicine Laboratory, University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN),

Nceba Gqaleni, Traditional Medicine Laboratory, University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN),

Full Text



Traditional Health Practitioners, medical certificates, health care systems, African traditional medicine, sick notes

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2012;102(3):129-131.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-09-19
Date published: 2012-02-23

Article Views

Abstract views: 6895
Full text views: 41539

Comments on this article

*Read our policy for posting comments here