Thoko Valencia Msiza is a traditional healer with a difference.
Sporting a stylish knee-length dress and beautifully plaited dreads, Msiza, 31, does not look like your average traditional healer.
She followed her calling as a fertility specialist after her mother, Thembi Msiza, who ran a fertility clinic for more than 30 years, died in 2002.
I found Msiza at her office on the eighth floor of the Medical Towers in Johannesburg's CBD. Her mother, who traded as DrRhino, also operated from there. The spacious room has three big leather chairs, an oak table and some attractive paintings on the wall. The red Cleopatra couch at the entrance, completes the classy look. This is where Msiza conducts her ancestral consultations.
She takes my colleague and I on a tour of the clinic. The first room is for admissions. The two single beds are draped with cream covers and an en suite bathroom completes the room. The white built-in shelves are packed with all the baby accessories you can think of. Opposite the reception area is a fully equipped labour ward.
"This is where I deliver my babies," she says.
Msiza started her work as a natural fertility specialist in her teens under strict supervision from her mother who inherited the gift from her father.
"I worked with my mother for many years. She was in the business for decades. She healed so many families with just a baby. She did not perform any magic, but used natural medicine to correct women's reproductive systems to help them conceive. I am using that same remedy to help women today," she says.
Her passion for natural healing prompted her to study further. After completing her natural sciences studies from the the Good Shepard Cultural College in KwaZulu-Natal, she received a doctorate in Traditional Healing and African Medicine Philosophy from the University of Zululand in 2004.
Msiza is registered with the South African Natural Health Practitioners Board.
She has spent most of her time digging up natural medicines under the guidance of acclaimed traditional healers from across Africa, including celebrated author, healer and cultural historian Credo Mutwa and Gladys Mhlongo, a professor from the cultural college.
"I wanted to know more about natural medicines. It is important to know how to identify healing herbs, how to differentiate poisonous medicines, how to measure and to know what the medicine is capable of doing," Msiza says, adding that her research is ongoing.
She emphasises that she has never experienced any "unfortunate incidents" with the remedy that she uses to help women conceive.
"It is very safe because it is made from natural herbs and tonics. It does not have side effects," Msiza says.
With such a wealth of knowledge and experience in natural medicines, why focus on fertility?
"It is where my passion lies and it is what I know best since I've been exposed to it almost all my life," Msiza says.
"I have found through my research that Western medicine is not the answer to all our problems and has never been the answer to everything. People who used Western treatment don't get the desired results."
She is working with Western doctors to explore how natural medicines can be fused with Western treatment to treat infertility.
"The remedy for infertility has been there since ancient times, but maybe because it was done discreetly and never documented, very few people know about it," she says.
She attributes some causes of infertility to weak reproductive systems, backstreet abortions and unhealthy food.
Msiza says she has helped many women since she started operating on her own in 2004.
She encourages women to bring their partners along for consultations.
"I prefer it because I need to know where the problem is. I don't have all the equipment to examine my patients so I rely on the information couples bring from their doctors or gynaecologists, and also what they tell me.
" I only throw the bones if it is necessary. I tell them that I do it to determine if I would not be wasting their time because I have to find out if the process will be successful or not. After informing them of my findings I admit the woman for seven to eight days to administer the natural medicines. After that she is discharged and we have ongoing treatment on an out-patient, basis" Msiza explains.
After 21 days, the woman's egg is fertilised with the help of the natural medicines.
"I then suggest that they return to their doctor or gynaecologist for a fertility check. If they return with positive results, which happens most of the time, they get intimate and we wait for the results," she says.
The length of the treatment differs from person to person.
"It can take anything between a month to six months or longer to conceive," Msiza says.