Sangoma sick notes – Are they proof of sick leave?

Jul 13, 2016

Many employers raise questions about whether or not they should accept a certificate from a sangoma, or traditional healer, as valid proof to give an employee sick leave. For a while, only employers in Kwa-Zulu Natal had to accept it.
However, things have changed!
Case Law: Kiviets Kroon Country Estate (Pty) Ltd v Mmoledi & others [LAC] JA78/10)
The facts of the case:

  • Kiviets Kroon dismissed an employee for staying away from work. She had a medical certificate from a traditional healer. It said she had ‘premonitions of ancestors’.
  • The CCMA and the Labour Court said the dismissal wasn’t justified. They said she had a justifiable reason for not being at work.
  • Kiviets Kroon took the case on appeal to the Labour Appeal Court. It said the Constitution recognises traditional beliefs and practices. So employers should also accept these beliefs too.
  • In this case, the employee didn’t undergo ‘medical treatment’. She was off for cultural, traditional belief or ancestral consultation.

The employee’s case was about her cultural and traditional beliefs. She said she was in consultation with a Traditional Healer. This was to help her with training that would qualify her to be a Sangoma, because she had a calling from her ancestors.
Furthermore, on 30th April 2014 the President signed the Traditional Health Practitioners Act.
This means:

  • From 1st May 2015 traditional health practitioners must register with the Council. 
  • This allows traditional health practitioners’ medical certificates to become proof of incapacity.
  • After registration with the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa, the traditional healer must conform to the requirements for payment of sick leave just like any other medical practitioner.

Therefore, South Africa now recognises registered traditional healers as legal traditional health practitioners. (The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007 (Act. 22 of 2007).
What does this mean for an employer?
Basically, if an employee gives en employer a medical certificate from a traditional healer, the employee has to be given paid leave. It also means, if the certificate justifies the employee’s absence from work, it is valid.

Disclaimer: LabourMan exclusively provides services to employers.

The content does not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Kindly contact us on or 021 556 1075 to speak to one of our consultants.


Wallace Albertyn

Wallace Albertyn is a Senior Associate and Legal Advisor at LabourMan Consultants.

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