I seldom find it possible to spend more than an hour in Cape Town’s city centre without being harassed by at least three eager “Traditional Specialist” flyer distributers standing on every street corner. In order to make my life (and their job) easier, I resign my self to being marketed at, and take the flyer that they hand me. Since actually reading one, I have actively sought out these distributers and have collected as many pamphlets as possible. For good reason.
The list of things that I find wrong with these leaflets and what they advertise grows with every one I read and I find it difficult deciding where to start. I will therefore begin with a short description of the flyers themselves. The general design format includes the name of the “Doctor” and their “qualification” in big colourful writing at the top of the A6 page, usually accompanied by pictures such as topless women, bunches of herbs or the star and crescent symbol of Islam. Beneath this lies a list of human ailments they claim to be able to cure followed by the details of how, where, and for how much these miraculous health restorations can be bought.
The initial flaw in the thought process that went into making these flyers presented itself to me as I read “sentences” like “We make cure women cant produce and be lovely to their partner” and “105Yr old papa in graveyard who cure all kind problems ask people they will tell you”. Firstly, if someone took the trouble to print out what must be thousands of these flyers, could they not have spent five minutes on ensuring that what they were about to print was even remotely intelligible? Secondly, by advertising cures for witches, tokoloshes and cursed homes, it is clear that their target market is not white people, or indeed people who have not grown up believing in such things. Therefore, if they are trying to attract African people (who are far more likely to believe in the powers of Sangomas) why then do they bother printing these thousands of flyers in poor, badly constructed English?
My second problem with these “Healers” is the absolutely impossible and outrageous claims they make; the first of which being their “qualifications”. “Doctor Haroona” “Professor M Raoul”; though I have not engaged in any of the services they offer, I can say with a great deal of confidence that none of these people have Masters Degrees or Doctorates to support their titles. The second flaw in the believability of their argument is the preposterous abilities they claim to possess: “We remove court cases”; “People with HIV/AIDS – this is your chance!”; “Penis enlargement, Tall, Large, big, strong or any shape or size”. As of yet, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and millions of dollars are spent each year on trying to find one. However, here in our own town, Prof Maria Aisha claims to have unlocked the mystery behind the cure to the greatest and most devastatingly wide-spread scourge affecting society today. Surely, if this were the case, I wouldn’t be reading about it on a poorly constructed A6 pamphlet on Loop Street. Similarly, if one were able to decide the exact size and shape of one's penis, it would be exploited by people all over world; not to mention the fact that – due to South Africa’s fine justice system – court cases cannot simply be “removed”.
The last, slightly disturbing issue is the fact that each flyer I collected advertises a different “expert”, all of whom are situated in the heart of Cape Town central. Some areas include Strand Street, Long Street, Loop Street and St. Georges Mall – all of which are prime land and extremely expensive to rent. If each consultation is only R50, the number of patients needed to pay the exorbitant monthly rent must be staggering. Yet, tempting offers such as “have a baby in seven days” and “hire short boys to attack your enemies” continue to draw people in and will more than likely do so for the foreseeable future.