Mystery of master healer unveiled

Book: The Extraordinary Khotso: Millionaire Medicine Man from Lusikisiki

Book: The Extraordinary Khotso: Millionaire Medicine Man from Lusikisiki

Author: Felicity Wood in collaboration with Michael Lewis

Publisher: Jacana

Reviewer: Themba Molefe

Rarely do traditional healers reach cult status, let alone become millionaires.

It is therefore appropriate that the legend of Khotso Sethuntsa is captured in a book.

Wood and Lewis entered Khotso Sethuntsa's world "and encountered one another in this world".

The book succeeds in exposing the mystery surrounding the legend. For instance, who would believe that Sethuntsa who lived in Lusikisiki in the Transkei had 23 wives and 100 children?

One of his best-known wives, Bethinja, became foster mother to his only known son, Four-Boy, after the child's mother left the medicine man.

The authors describe him as a near-legendary medicine man who was believed to work powerful and dangerous magic.

"Khotso was renowned and feared throughout South Africa and beyond, even after his death in 1972.

"He created a fabulous, eccentric kingdom around himself. He has been surrounded by mystery: the origins of his fortune and the extent of his powers shrouded in secrecy."

In the prologue, the authors write: "It is February 1970, and a bus packed with tourists is making its way through the Transkei heat to a large blue and white house on the outskirts of Lusikisiki. The occupants of the bus chatter excitedly, even nervously, as they draw closer to an ornate sprawling mansion surrounded by strange statuary.

"They have almost reached the destination: a place known as Mount Nelson, the headquarters of the person said to be one of the greatest workers of magic in southern Africa, the medicine man . Some of the tourists are South Africans; others come from the United States. Khotso's fame has spread far."

The book states that Sethuntsa's medicines, such as his elixir of life, enabled him to return from the dead twice, once in 1924 and again in 1956, or so he has claimed.

"Then, there is his ever-popular remedy, ibangalala - the means by which men can soar to seemingly superhuman heights of virility and sexual prowess. Khotso declares that he is living proof that ibangalala works."

He surrounded himself with concubines into his 90s and claimed his elixir kept him virile.

Sethuntsa claimed he was a friend of Paul Kruger, president of the South African Republic, the old Transvaal, between 1883 and 1900 and leader of the Boers during the South African war.

He was described as "Transkei's richest native", among many other monikers.

As the authors note, the book unravels many of the mysteries surrounding Sethuntsa. It explores his unique empire and tracks his extraordinary career.