‘DR’ CHOKOCHA: TRADITIONAL HEALER WITH A PASSION

…Started practicing at age 14

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SANFROSSA MANYINDA writes

@SunZambian

STRANGE and unexplained illness was all it took for a 14 year old girl, now popularly as ‘Dr’ Chokocha of Chawama Compound, to go into traditional healing. Dr. Chokocha (Catherine Phiri) now 61, who started her work in 1972, said she fell ill to the point of death when her parents decided to take her to a witch doctor to establish the cause. 

THE SUN: When did you start your work as a traditional healer?

Dr. CHOKOCHA: Ine nchito yanga ninayamba nikali mwana. Nankala munchito iyi zaka zambili. Ninayamba kupasa bantu munkwala ochilitsa ninshi nili na zaka zobadwa 14. Apa nili na 61 years( I started my work as a traditional healer when I was 14 years of age and I am now 61).

THE SUN: Who were you living with by then?

Dr. CHOKOCHA: Nenzekunkala namakolo. Kosoba mwai, mwamene mu 1972 bamai banamwalila elo batate banamwalila mu 1974 (I was living with my parents, unfortunately my mother died in 1972 and my father later died in 1974).

THE SUN: How did you start your work?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Nenze ninadwala maningi kwa infa. So after nadwala, batate bananipeleka mu bantu bamane banakamba ati uyu mwana wanu azakankala mung’anga then venzekufuna pamene apo niyambe nchito but batate banakana ati first nipunzileko kaili ndine mwana mukazi. But ninapitiliza nakudwala until banileka nayamba iyi nchito (I fell very ill to the point of death when my parents decided to take me to a traditional doctor to establish the cause. They were told that the spirits wanted me to start work immediately but my father objected on grounds that I should go to school and be educated because I was a young girl. But I continued getting sick until I was allowed to start working).

THE SUN: How far did you go with your education?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Ninalimbikila na sikulu. Ninachitila iyi nchito chifukwa kumapezeka bantu benangu sibaziba kukamba chinyanja. Ninasiliza mapunzilo anga onse elo ninasebenza mu ministry of education as a Secretary kwazaka 14. So ninachita resign chifukwa chakudwala because vimashabe sivenzekufuna kuti nisebenze nchito inangu. (I continued with my education because I felt I needed it to effectively communicate with the patients that could not speak Nyanja. I completed my education and I worked as a secretary at the Ministry of Education for 14 years. I later resigned so that I could concentrate on my work because I was still falling ill).

THE SUN: Are you married?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Ndine widow. Bamuna banga banamwalila mu 1994 ninshi tilikumunzi so olo ivi vonse vamene nilinavo pano ninamanga che neka. Bananisiya nabana bali 6(Am a widow. My husband died in 1994 when we were still living in the village. So I built all the structures you are seeing here by myself. He left me with 6 children).  

THE SUN: Was your husband comfortable with your work?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Ehe. Benzelibe problem na iyi nchito. benze kuni supporter bwino bwino (Yes, he had no problem with my work, in fact he supported me very well).

THE SUN: Do you live with your children?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Benangu banakwatiliwa, winangu akwatiliwa apa this year. Kupela eve akalibe, but anasiliza sukulu (Four of them got married, one will be getting married this year and the last born has just completed school).

THE SUN: Do any of your children show interest in taking after you?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Awe, kulibe mwana wanga aliyense wamene aonesa interest muli iyi nchito. Muziba bana bopunzila nibovuta. So ngati nafa nikufa navo (one of my children has shown interest in continuing with my work. You know how difficult educated children are. So when I die, I will die with all these things).

THE SUN: What are some of the challenges you face in your work? 

DR. CHOKOCHA: Niyambili chabe. Majelousi, anyway nchito yatu chabe niyovuta (A lot. Jealousy is one of them but any way, our work is just difficult).

THE SUN: where does this jealousy come from?

DR. CHOKOCHA: kuli asing’anga anzantu especially bakaona kuti ndine mukazi elo nichita bwino kuchila asing’anga amuna ambili. So chabe tinajaila because mumanchito onse mulima jealousy. Elo ine nipanga ndalama zabili chifukwa nimapokelela ma patients bambili Zambia yonse namu vyalo vinangu vosiyana siyana. Nichipatala chokwana ichi. Pali nama wards pano (from my fellow traditional healers especially that am a woman and doing fine in my business. I make a lot of money especially that I receive patients from all parts of the country as well as outside the country. This is a full clinic we even have wards here. But I understand because jealousy is there in all work disciplines).

THE SUN: What great lessons have you learnt from your work?

DR. CHOKOCHA: Kuzichepesa. Iyi nchito ilibwino ngati uzichepetsa nakutandizila bantu muchilungamo. Iyi nchito sifuna booza. Ufunika kutandizila bantu muchilungamo. Siifuna boza and then nabantu babwela. Ukapolesako winango naeve azabwelesako bantu (Humbleness. This work is better when you humble yourself and work for the people truthfully. This work does not require cheating. The people you work for truthfully are the ones that bring more customers through their testimonies).

Dr. Chokocha in her own words
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