Until the advent of Western medicine, traditional medicine (TM) had been the only source of health care in Africa, said UKZN’s Professor Exnevia Gomo at his Inaugural lecture presented on the Howard College campus.

‘Colonisation systematically relegated TM to an unofficial health care service yet it retained its relevance for the majority of the people of Africa, demonstrating its resilience.’

Gomo, who is attached to the Discipline of Traditional Medicine, said decolonisation brought with it a resurgence of national and international commitment to institutionalise TM through the development of legal, policy and regulatory frameworks to enable integration into national healthcare systems.

According to Gomo, the integration process has been very slow, partly because of the paradigms used in the policy framework and the requirement of scientific evidence of safety and efficacy.

‘The question then is has the institutionalisation of TM been a victim of Procrustesism – for example being inflexibly subjected to paradigms of Western medicine?’

Gomo joined UKZN’s College of Health Sciences in 2016 as the South African Research Chair in Indigenous Health Care Systems. Prior to that he was with the University of Zimbabwe’s College of Health Sciences where he was Associate Professor in the Department of Medical Laboratory Sciences and also served as the first Director of the Research Support Centre.

He holds a Diploma in Biological Sciences Laboratory Techniques, MSc in Applied Immunology, PhD in Immunology and a Diploma in Research Methodology. Gomo has extensive experience in health research in Zimbabwe through regional and international collaboration.

In the mid-1990s Gomo initiated the first ever large-scale clinical evaluation of traditional medicines used in the management of HIV and AIDs following claims of a cure by some traditional healers in Zimbabwe. Because of his involvement in traditional medicine, Gomo was invited by World Health Organization’s AFRO Office to participate in the Technical Working Group that developed the Guidelines for Methodologies of Evaluating Safety and Efficacy of Traditional Medicines in the WHO Afro region.

In 2005, Gomo was seconded to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe as Director of Traditional Medicine and tasked with establishing a TM Department and national programme. Between 2005 and 2007, Gomo transformed the public view of TM in Zimbabwe through several initiatives, including the development of the National Policy on Traditional Medicine.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences Professor Busi Ncama congratulated Gomo saying: ‘The College is honoured to have an academic and researcher of his calibre.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini