Sipho Mabena
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
27 Sep 2021
6:36 pm

‘Wrestling’ with death turned Inyanga into a ‘pro-vaccination crusader’

Sipho Mabena

Steaming umhlonyane didn't work, and after surviving a hole in his throat, no one leaves a consultation with Mbatha without getting a vaccine lecture.

Traditional Healer Gogo Bathini Mbatha. Picture: Youtube

Popular KwaZulu-Natal Inyanga (traditional healer) Gogo Bathini Mbatha has documented his battle with Covid in a gripping book, detailing how he was pulled from the jaws of death in Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke hospital Intensive Care Unit.

The sought-after healer with over 120 000 YouTube subscribers and clients from as far as Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia, tells of how steaming umhlonyane (African wormwood), mint oils, and onions simply didn’t work for him when he got sick.

“I was dying, I could smell and taste death. I would rather be safe than go down that route again, so that is why I took up my first chance to get vaccinated. Much as I respect people’s rights and privacy, I do not miss a chance to encourage them to get vaccinated. It is my civic duty as a self-appointed Covid ambassador,” he told The Citizen.

Mbatha fell sick as soon as he arrived to spend the Christmas holidays with his family in Centurion, Tshwane, following a trip to collect herbs in India and Zimbabwe. He tested positive for Covid on December 27 2020.

The pandemic had already claimed his my mother-in-law Getrude Titi on Christmas day, and Mbatha grew increasingly frightened as his condition worsened and had to be hospitalised.

The healer has medical aid but could not find a single ICU bed in Johannesburg private hospitals, leading to him being admitted at Charlotte Maxeke hospital in Parktown.

He was immediately placed in a medically induced coma and, with his condition not improving, it was decided that a tracheostomy be performed on him. A tracheostomy is a hole created in the front of the neck, through which a tube is inserted into the windpipe (trachea) to help you breathe, and if need connected to a ventilator.

“My wife had to sign a consent form since my life was hanging by a thread. I was taking too much oxygen from the life support. The delicate tracheostomy procedure was performed while I remained in coma,” the healer said.

Mbatha said by documenting his harrowing journey in a book, his aim is to become the face of Covid, the voice of reason for those against the vaccine, and a pro vaccination crusader.

For the cover image of the book, titled My Near Death Experience with Covid-19, Mbatha decided to use the eerie picture of himself ravaged by the pandemic to drive his message home.

Despite hearing about them in passing, Mbatha said he had never paid attention to vaccines and developments in that front, but that after his ordeal with the pandemic, he jumped at the chance to get vaccinated.

“After being discharged from hospital, it was time for me to save myself, from myself. I had to take the vaccine to live longer. The friendly staff at Life Empangeni Private Hospital made life easy for me to take my first Pfizer vaccine. I took my second jab at eNgwelezane Academic Hospital on September 22,” the grateful healer said.

He, however, admitted that he was encouraged by two doctors at Charlotte Maxeke hospital, where he said the service was superb.

Mbatha said he has tested negative for Covid this past winter and has been encouraging his patients during consultations to vaccinate, saying no one leaves without him discussing Covid, and hearing about his near death experience.