IT IS UMJOVO TIME!
Fake professor seeks a share of vaccine loot.
- When the deal seems soooooo gooood, we should think twice.
- Why should the government entertain a clearly fake individual to promote the COVID-19 Vaccine, is he is not being backed by the government, why has he not been shut down?
- Everything out of the mouth of Mbayimbayi Hlathi is a lie from the number of Sangomas he has in his briefcase outfit to his qualification
In 2015, City Press published an editorial stating that a failure by one of our own is a reflection of all of us. In reference to Thomsanqa ‘Bompi’ Jantjie, the fake sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial, City Press opined; “He is a perfect metaphor for what our country and society is, like a mirror reflecting back on us and we don't like what we see."
As shocking as our mirror reflections maybe, we shouldn't be surprised at our individual and collective gullibility in a fraud-ridden society. In this new series, uSpiked explore those seemingly low-hanging fruits.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the best and worst in humanity. While many members of society acted desperately to combat the virus, others viewed the pandemic as the perfect opportunity to milk public coffers. Take the example of corruption in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) contracts (tenders). No wonder the Presidency took the responsibility to directly source and procure COVID-19 vaccines for the country. But it soon realised that buying the vaccines is just the first step. To successfully inoculate and achieve the required herd-immunity, the government would need access to rural dwellers, — the often overlooked lot in the society except during electioneering season.
The realization was evident when corporations and some officials started contacting the humanitarian NGO, Gift of the Givers, for help. Rather than try to openly admit their incapacity to the founder of the NGO, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, the government opened its doors to anyone who could claim to have the capacity.
The Department of Health has known for more than a decade that traditional healers are trusted by communities living in inaccessible rural areas to address their health, social and economic needs. In the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, 2007, the State sought to create the Traditional Health Practitioners Council of South Africa that would be responsible for a regulatory framework for ensuring the efficacy, safety and quality of traditional health care services. The Interim Council for traditional practitioners was intended to be equivalent to the allopathic Health Professions Council (HPCSA). An interim Council was put in place soon after the president assented to the Bill on January 10, 2008. This council served several terms over a period of 12 years and without funding. The pandemic halted plans to appoint new permanent members to the council in 2020 and thus there has since remained a vacuum. With the rumoured millions of Rand waiting to be made in the national vaccine drive, various groups have emerged either pleading or demanding their share.
When 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in South Africa on February 1, 2021, the citizens had mixed feelings. The political leadership was on cloud 9 hailing the arrival of the saviour. Simple calculations indicated the quantity could only cover 0.86% of the population. Hence the country would need a further fifty similar deliveries for enough vaccines to achieve the desired herd immunity, which could mean fifty more trips to OR Tambo for Ramaphosa.
Another issue that requires examination arose. The expiry dates of the purchased vaccines were April 2021. As suspicious as these issues appear, they were overshadowed by the fact that the delivered AstraZeneca vaccines were not effective against the South African Variant of COVID-19 - The 501.V2.
When were the vaccines actually manufactured?
The short expiry date prompts the question; when exactly were these vaccines manufactured? It is strange that drugs with such a short lifespan could be manufactured overseas and purchased by the South African government unless these vaccines had been manufactured much earlier than claimed. With the global race to secure the coronavirus vaccine at full speed, President Ramaphosa’s government lauded itself for being the first African country to procure a million doses. - South Africa is playing in the top league. Well, according to those in charge, being seen to be doing something seems better than doing nothing.
As Ramaphosa's government was competing internationally for the few vaccines made available, domestically, the government seemed to have forgotten to simultaneously prepare the country logistically to complete the mission.
There was therefore nothing to celebrate over the arrival of one million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccines on the 1st of Feb this year. Firstly, as already stated above, the 1 million doses could only cover 0.86% of the population. Secondly without proper logistics in place, how were the vaccines to reach the human arms before their two-month expiry date? Thirdly, was the inefficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine against the South African variant of the virus - the 501.V2.
There is a question billionaire, Johann Rupert, must have been asking since he flew back into the country after jumping the queue at his Swiss hospital to get the vaccine. "Would it work against this new South African variant? Or did I just waste jet fuel for nothing other than the bad publicity that followed?” The answer is, “Mr Rupert, we don’t know, as nobody knows what you took? But it was surely not worth it. But of course, money isn't a problem for you!” -it is to us Editor
The pandemic has opened doors and windows for multiple fraudulent schemes. With so much time spent at home, schemers have had enough time to formulate unbeatable enterprises. The latest individual to step into the picture is a Sylvester Mbayimbayi Hlathi, a Limpopo-based traditional medicine man (Sangoma/Inyanga). For the last fortnight, the Mozambique-born Hlathi claims he was inundated with requests for media interviews. It took this journalist over a week to secure a slot for an interview within his busy schedule. “No, I cannot talk now, I have so many journalists waiting to interview me. You will have to wait.” That was his standard response over the period, which continued even after an appointment was secured.
Even when he granted a time for the interview, Hlathi still failed to complete the interview he had started with this journalist.
The first national feature of Hlathi was on a News24 report published early February when he appeared to represent some 75,000 traditional medicine men/women (sangomas) who were demanding prioritization in the vaccine rollout. The sangomas through Hlathi, according to the report, were seeking to be scheduled for vaccinations alongside other frontline health workers in the vaccine rollout.
Undoubtedly, sangomas should enjoy all the rights and privileges enjoyed by the rest of the society, However, fearfully the logistical logjam that would be faced by the system should this demand be granted. First, the failure by the Department of Health to fully implement the 2007 law has deprived the Department of the capacity to have and maintain a registry of Traditional Healers (Sangomas) in the country. So, would anyone who declares him or herself a Sangoma be accepted as one and be allowed to get their jabs alongside nurses and doctors?
Hlathi and his claimed 75,000 membership are enticing for a government that would like to have as many people as possible accepting and embracing the vaccines. To be clear, the demand is yet to be responded to by the Department of Health. But does Hlathi have access to the claimed 75,000 Sangomas? Let’s have a look.
Sylvester Mbayimbayi Hlathi
On September 21, 2016, a then 39-year-old Sithembiso Calvin Shabalala of Ladysmith, registered a company called Mhlabuhlangene Herbalist of RSA (Pty) Ltd. Soon thereafter the company started running what it calls Mhlabuhlangene School of African Medicine. The school, according to information presented by Shabalala and his team, offers bachelor degrees in African Medicine.
The first glaring issue is the fact that the ‘school’ is neither registered nor accredited with the Department of Higher Education & Training as required by the Higher Education Act, of 1997 – Act No. 101 of 1997).
According to the school's founder, Shabalala, the school enjoys accreditation by the International Accreditation Organization. Shabalala told this journalist that he understands the essence of the Higher Education law of 1997. And further that he knows his school is not in compliance with that law, but he doesn't care because the Council of Higher Education does not understand the subject of African Traditional medicine and therefore, “how can they regulate what they don't understand?”
The Accreditation organization Shabalala mentions is listed among accreditation agencies used by fake colleges. Getting recognition by online entities doesn't exempt an entity from operating within local laws. Mhlabuhlangene School of African Medicine is not registered locally as required by South Africa’s law hence breaking the law.
Despite Mhlabuhlangene school being neither registered nor accredited, Hlathi was reported to have been awarded a doctorate degree by Shabalala's school in December 2020, through a US-based School of Theology and Projects. The irony of a theology school awarding a degree of any sort to an African traditional medicine man wasn’t lost to this journalist. The exact identity of the claimed US school was concealed in the earlier reports, and that’s one of the questions the now Professor Hlathi failed to respond to when he avoided honouring an interview appointment with this journalist.
In a media report after the doctorate award, Shabalala, the registered director of Mhlabuhlangene Herbalist of RSA (Pty) Ltd then donning a hat of Chancellor of the unregistered school reportedly said of Hlathi; “His impact is not here in South Africa only but even out of the country. We heard some people took with the team and I sent some people to come and verify his impact because he has been doing a lot of work here in the community, even in our field of African medicine. So that’s what prompted us to assess him, to him this recognition in our institution,” sic
While talking to this journalist, Shabalala disowned Hlathi. He confirmed that the US-based university is Los Angeles Development Church & Institute. This is no more than a diploma mill. For $129 (R1,894.29), one can make an online request for a doctorate degree. This amount would buy the requester:
- Honorary Doctorate degree
- Information letter about your new degree
- Free shipping worldwide within 2-14 business days.
In essence, Hlathi bought himself the paper doctorate degree. A month later, Hlathi became the president of another unregistered NGO claiming to represent thousands of African traditional medicine men/women from the sixteen Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries.
SADC Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association has remained unregistered to this day. There appears to have been no efforts to apply for formal registration of an NGO with such a name. This journalist has checked with all individual registration authorities within the sixteen SADC countries and found no such registration.
But buried within the database of South African registration authority (CIPC), is a non-profit corporation bearing registration No. K2019/176079/08. Strangely, the name has been left empty (to be filled later). Listed as directors of this nameless NPC are:
- Sylvester Hlathi
- Tshitshi Khumalo
- Ranyane Given Mohlabi
- Helen Nomfiso Ngubeni
Also hidden within the registration particulars is a misplaced identity. Hlathi who should be in his late sixties presented himself with an ID showing him to have been born in 1975. Registered on the same day is yet another NPC called SADC Unified Ancestors Traditional Practitioners Association under Registration No. K2012/052706/08. This NPC lists eight directors:
- Silvester Mkaimbai Hlathi
- Thwagadima Hitler Letsoalo
- Muvhulawa Andries Maboko
- Khazamula Moses Maluleke
- Magezi Charles Maluleke
- Magezi Mackson Milambo
- Ruth Martha Ndlovu
- Linah Sasvona Nkuna
With the NPC formally registered, Hlathi and his team started plans to set up their own university in competition to the one through which he had been displayed with the doctorate degree he had purchased from the online platform.
Six weeks before commencing with the registration of the NPCs, the professor had resurfaced when on January 5, 2021, an internet Domain profhlati.co.za was registered. This is the website that contains his portfolio of work.
Soon after the establishment of the website, professor Hlathi commenced a campaign to be included in the government’s COVID-19 vaccines rollout. He has since ruled the airwaves with nearly every journalist seeking a sound byte from him. Unfortunately, none of these journalists has been able to pin him down to explain his various claims including how he operates a school/university that is neither registered nor accredited. Unlike Shabalala's outfit that bears the IAO badge, Hlathi’s SADC University of African Medicine is simply a briefcase outfit.
Further investigations show that a fraud case was opened against Hlathi’s outfit by Mr Shabalala. The case, reference No. 217/2/2021 was opened on February 16, 2021, alleges that two individuals associated with Hlathi’s new school approached members of the community claiming to have been sent by Shabalala's school. The mentioned two individuals are alleged to have received money from unsuspecting members of the public while claiming to be acting for Mhlabuhlangene School of African Medicine.
As he ventured into the vaccine distribution saga, the professor has now adjusted the name of the NGO to Southern African Development Community Traditional Health Practitioners Association. With the names of his NGOs mutating like the Coronavirus, the unhinged professor is on a mission not just for quick recognition, but to make some quick bucks on the way to stardom.
Hlathi seems to have mastered the art of names-dropping. When recently asked where he gets funding to run his new outfits, he dropped the names of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to the Foundation, that is a lie. The Foundation’s media relations team, in response, stated, “The foundation has not provided any funding directly to SADC University of African Medicine.” Could they have indirectly? Who knows?
Hlathi’s first attempt at stardom appears to be in a photograph featured on his current website showing former President Jacob Zuma with the caption ‘Prof. S M Hlathi performing the blessing rituals on President Jacob G Zuma during the interactive outreach at Bolivia in Polokwane’ -sic. It’s not clear when exactly the ritual was performed. Of course, don’t we all know how blessed President Zuma became after the ritual!
Brian Ras Kora of Cape Bush Doctors and a former member of the Interim Council of Traditional Healers dismissed Hlathi's credentials, saying “…having talked with other healers, we have come to the conclusion that this guy is fake.”
Says Kora: “…accreditation of such institutions is by law the sole mandate of the Council, which is not in operation at this time due to failure by the Minister of Health to confirm appointments to the Council…"
Similar sentiments were echoed by Shabalala whose school had facilitated Hlathi’s purchased online doctorate. "I really don't know what Prof Hlathi is up to, but nobody has authority to compel fellow Traditional Healers to be involved in the vaccination drive. We should have been involved from the beginning. We have our own ways of dealing with ailments including Coronavirus. While I am not opposed to the vaccines; I cannot personally endorse it since we were not involved in their development."
Shabalala wondered how would the public know that they are not being injected with the expired Vaccines that were delivered from India - in reference to the AstraZeneca vaccines.
For the last five weeks, Hlathi, a traditional healer based in Limpopo has ruled the airways and print pages. He went national when News24 covered his event petitioning the government for the inclusion of traditional healers (sangomas) alongside other healthcare workers in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
In the same article, in a world filled with vaccine hesitancy, involving traditional healers to talk to the masses about the need for vaccines could be deemed a laudable endeavour. But there is something amiss with the picture being presented the more we let the lying Hlathi be the conduit between government and the masses. First, nearly every word from his mouth has been a lie. It is doubtful that he could have access to even twenty traditional healers leave alone the ancestors. The futility is so visible, how can one convince those who are undecided on vaccines, using falsehood?
Finally, one doesn't need to be an African to appreciate how Traditional African Healers regard western medicines. From data that has been gathered in the last several days, there is brewing anger among other African Traditional Healers who feel offended by Hlathi for purporting to speak on their behalf. One such healer who requested to remain anonymous as he has no permission to speak for his colleagues insisted; “We (African Traditional medicine men/women) are not health practitioners, we are healers – the word practitioners was a creation of the 2007 Act. Sangomas don't just treat illnesses. We provide holistic care for our people. We are healers. We offer social, physical and economic care to our people. We treat body, mind and soul. Hlathi wants us restricted to specialities. That's not us. We wonder for whom he is working!”
THE ROLE OF PRO-VACCINE INFLUENCERS – Governments, pro-vaccine lobby groups and media are actively engaging with social influencers (celebrities, religious and faith-based figures etc.) all around the world to reach pockets of residents with paid messages, steering them toward behaviours that benefit public health.
uSpiked has written to the Secretariat of SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) seeking clarification on any affiliation the Community may have with professor Hlathi's outfits. Their response awaited.