Going by the name of Dr Sangoma, Nkholo Seanego says as much as the physical well-being is prioritised, it is sometimes the spirit that needs healing.
After a busy morning of attending to patients’ physical ailments at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Dr Nkholo Seanego knocks off to his “ndumbeni” (traditional consultation room) in The Orchards, Pretoria, where he continues to heal his patients – this time, spiritually.
Going by the name “Dr Sangoma”, Seanego’s view of healing looks at both the physical and spiritual well-being of his patients, as he is a qualified doctor who also practices as a sangoma after hours.
“We need to get to a position where we can get into consultations and I can tell you that the problem is not spiritual, it is physical – and as a doctor, I can tell you without fear of being labelled, that you need to go to the ndumbeni,” he says.
Even as a child, he says, he knew his purpose was to help people.
Dr Nkholo Seanego poses for a photograph at his home in The Orchards, Pretoria, 16 June 2021. The doctor is a medical doctor as well as a sangoma. Picture: Michel Bega
Being the seventh of eight children growing up on a farm in Sterkrivier, Limpopo, both his parents were born to traditional healers. But as a sickly baby, the family advised that Seanego’s name be changed to Nkholo, which was the name of his sangoma grandfather.
Then, from the age of nine years Seanego says he started having visions.
“I would have déjà vu moments and visions and would share them with my mother and those visions would come true. My mother, who is a Zion Christian Church (ZCC) member, knew what was happening but ran away from this calling herself and was in denial that most likely her son might be gifted as well.”
After completing his matric with good marks, he studied biochemistry at the University of South Africa but was offered an opportunity by the Limpopo health department to study medicine in Cuba.
Dr Nkholo Seanego at his home in The Orchards, Pretoria, 16 June 2021. Picture: Michel Bega
This is where he was taught the skill of putting the patient first.
“I learned in Cuba that your first aim is to make sure you don’t make money out of your clients but to heal them and the rest shall follow. That is the same principle in our tradition,” he said.
Upon his return, Seanego says he was looking forward to a flourishing future, having met a “beautiful woman” whom he married and had two children with.
Out of the blue, he says his finances suddenly “went down the drain”.
“I tried some companies which were liquidated. I lost my car. I lost that marriage also. I was young, educated, how am I not ‘slaying’? I stopped the church and started drinking until I met a guy who said maybe I must see a sangoma. When I went there, I knew what I was going to be told.”
By 29, Seanego underwent 14 months of training to be a sangoma to finally fulfil that which he had been trying to deny most of his life.
Currently he is also training as a cardiothoracic surgeon at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
He says the two disciplines of healing and medicine are based on bio-psychosocial concepts which look at the physical, psychological and social. What is common in western and traditional medicine is that the patient always comes first, he says.
Dr Nkholo Seanego. Picture: Michel Bega
“These components exist, so why give importance to one component of yourself? Why only the physical? We can agree that you can be sick psychologically and it manifests in the physical form. But also you can be sick spiritually and it manifests in the physical form.”