UKZN’s Discipline of Traditional Medicine remembered Traditional Dr Mkhuluwe Protas Cele fondly known as “Zihlahla Zemithi” at a Memorial service held at Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

‘The period 2000 – 2002 was a formative foundational phase in my life on critical aspects of African traditional medicine,’ said Professor Nceba Gqaleni, remembering the negotiations that led to the historic MOU between UKZN and traditional healers under the leadership of Cele.

The collaboration was about health provision between the University, KwaZulu-Natal traditional healers and the KZN Department of Health. It also included scientific research and teaching.

‘Not intimidated by science due to his deep knowledge of African Indigenous Knowledge, Cele worked with several scientists,’ said Gqaleni. ‘He challenged us to decolonise health education by opening his own school, Gaqa School of African Traditional Medicine’, he added.

Cele was an expert traditional healer and famous as an inyanga who had particular and specialised knowledge on paediatric remedies. He did remarkable work on the conservation of indigenous plants used for medicines. Cele actively encouraged healers to cultivate their own medicinal plants and develop indigenous gardens and nurseries.

His most significant contribution was his specialised knowledge of the treatments required by children under the medical system of indigenous healing. In this field he was acknowledged as a national figure of authority, which was also reflected in his role on the boards of different professional bodies. He actively encouraged other healers to develop the professional standing of their medical practice by working together with university researchers in order to record and document the various ways in which traditional medicines are used.

Traditional Medicine’s Dr Mlungisi Ngcobo spoke fondly of Cele and thanked his family for having shared their father with UKZN.

‘Mkhuluwe was a hero and loved to dress exquisitely. A true gentleman,’ said Mom Phakade a traditional healer who worked with Cele for years.

‘He loved his work as a healer. He also went to India thinking he will find trees that he could use, but was very angry and disappointed because he never did,’ said Phakade.

Traditional Medicine, Academic Leader Professor Exnevia Gomo thanked Cele’s family for allowing the discipline to celebrate Cele’s life with them. ‘I admired his depth of wisdom in indigenous medicine. He was a master of diabetes medicine and his work was instructive.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini