It’s a story making waves across Mzansi: A famous TikTok doctor is being exposed for allegedly being a bogus doctor, and lying about his qualifications and identity.
Known for his various medical and health advice online, “Dr Matthew Lani” said he was enrolled at Wits from 2014 to 2021 and graduated from Wits medical school at the age of 21. He also said his name is not listed with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as he uses different names on social media.
His accounts state that he obtained a bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery (MBBS) degree from Wits University. He also mentions that he sells Future Life health products and is a content creator.
‘We don’t know him’
Wits University has since released a statement and said that they cannot find any person who graduated by the many names he has used in recent years.
Meanwhile, the HPCSA has also publicly stated that the name of Matthews Zingelwa-Lani does not appear in the register of health practitioners in terms of section 17 of the Health Professions Act, Act No. 56 of 1974.
Criminal case opened
The Gauteng department of health (GDoH) has since opened a case at the Brixton police station in Johannesburg against Lani for impersonating a medical doctor and assuming various pseudo-medical roles, falsely presenting himself as an employee of the department.
“Lani managed to weave his way into the system, pretending to be in the employment at Helen Joseph Hospital, where he moved around the hospital corridors curating content for social media,” reads the statement by the GDoH.
“Further investigations have revealed that Dr Sanele Zingelwa, the name which Lani claims is his real name, belongs to a second-year medical intern at Tembisa Provincial Tertiary Hospital. The real Dr Sanele Sobani Vambani Zingelwa has since opened a case of identity fraud at the Tembisa police station.”
Zingelwa has released a statement saying, “I must put it on record that I do not know the so called ‘Dr Matthew Lani’. His actions have put a huge amount of strain on not only myself, but also on my family. It is unfortunate that he would abuse social media for his own selfish end.”
Many fake doctors in Mzansi
Earlier this year, minister of health Joe Phaahla confirmed that they had arrested 124 fake doctors and stressed that it was illegal to operate in the medical sector without obtaining the necessary approvals from the HPCSA.
With many citizens concerned about the prevalence of fake doctors in our country, Health For Mzansi reader Dean Mpisane from Pretoria voices his concerns on how dangerous this could be to those who actually take medical advice from these doctors.
“I actually don’t take free medical advice from any doctor online because people on the internet cannot be trusted. People will do anything for likes, followers, and money. Anyone can wear a doctor’s coat and stethoscope and claim to be a doctor or a lawyer just for followers like Dr Mathew did,” he says.
“I think it’s best to go to one’s regular doctor or hospitals because hospitals do background checks on doctors before they hire them to avoid malpractice, misdiagnosis, and lawsuits.”
Dangers of seeking medical advice online
Mqoqindlela Ndlovu from Johannesburg who was leaning towards seeking affordable therapy online, had someone reaching out only to discover that the person was not qualified in the health field as they claimed.
“We live in digital times now so it’s easy to get access and believe things we see. Doctors I usually take information from online are usually credible and provide legit work. I’ve learned there are many scammers selling fake products and information so it’s best to always look out for doctors who are affiliated with respectable institutions,” he says.
“After my experience, I learned that It’s best to always use public databases available to us and do research for references and reviews.”
It’s a crime
The HPCSA emphasises that practising while not registered with the council is a criminal offence.
“Registration with the HPCSA is a pre-requisite for a profession registered in terms of the Act and it is also a legal requirement to keep all personal details up-to-date at all times,” reads a statement by the HPCSA.
They warn anyone who is not registered in respect of any health profession but pretends to; use any name, title, description or symbol indicating; or calculated to lead persons to infer that he or she is the holder of any qualification under the act, shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction liable to a fine or to imprisonment.
“The HPCSA will work with law enforcement agencies to respond to the increasing number of bogus practitioners as their behaviour puts the health of the public at risk.”
Report bogus practitioners
The HPCSA advises community members to be cautious of bogus practitioners and report them to the Support Home Page (custhelp.com) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also verify a practitioner’s status by searching on the HPCSA website under “Search the Register” or calling the HPCSA Call Centre on 012 338 9300.
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