Phephisile cashes in from healing powers

Phephisile Maseko's company makes pharmaceutical products out of traditional plants.
Phephisile Maseko's company makes pharmaceutical products out of traditional plants.
Image: Supplied

A family gift of healing has helped a 44-year-old woman to build a thriving pharmaceutical company in rural Mpumalanga.

Phephisile Maseko said she inherited the gift of traditional healing from her father who was a renowned healer for the eSwatini royal family in the 1970s.

She said after years of being a traditional healing activist she launched her company Phephisa Natural Resource Institute to create pharmaceutical products using traditional plants.

"It is very important to me to gain economically from my healing. There has been a lot of exploitation of traditional medicine and I want us to let traditional medicine benefit its own people."

Phephisa Natural Resource Institute has products such as gwengwe jelly which is used to treat funguses and skin diseases, nganu shampoo for hair and nganu face wash to sooth and moisturise the face.

Maseko said her healing talents were uncovered when she was nine years old.

At 13, she started to travel with her father across the continent to learn about traditional medicine.

"We went to all the homelands in SA, Uganda and other African countries like Lesotho and Botswana," she said.

The mother of three said she was teased as a child about coming from a home of healers.

"They [other children] would call our home demonic, but this created a resilience in me," said Maseko.

She said this made her become determined to be successful with traditional medicine and make Africans proud of it.

She became the leader of the Traditional Leaders Organisation as part of this mission.

"When you do something from love, you don't find it hard. It becomes an extension of yourself," she said.

Maseko said she has created employment for 81 women and works with 18 cooperatives that grow the plants to create her products.

"I felt it would be a much bigger impact to work with my people and empower them," she said.

Maseko said her father was proud of the work she has done in protecting indigenous knowledge by taking ownership of it by innovating products.

She said to ensure her products were safe for human use, the department of science and technology funded research hubs such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the University of Pretoria and the University of Mpumalanga to do extensive research on her products.

Dr Hlupheka Chabalala, director: IK-based technology innovation in the department of science and technology, said they saw potential in her products and are committed to assisting Maseko's development.

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