During her summer rotation in South Africa, fourth-year student Lynsee Melchi is interviewing a series of veterinarians about their practice experiences.
Dr. Takalani Netshituni is a state veterinarian working in the areas of Veterinary Public Health (meat and milk inspection) and Primary Animal Health for the Province of Limpopo. He is currently collaborating with other animal experts from around South Africa to create a comprehensive aquatic animal health plan, including drafting legislation and regulations. Dr. Netshituni recently opened his own mixed-animal private practice. He is a 2015 graduate of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty at the University of Pretoria. He is married and has two kids. Dr. Netshituni is originally from an area of Limpopo called Venda. He is currently living and working in Polokwane in the Limpopo province.
What is the best thing about your job?
You can just form an initiative like “I just want to do this thing” and you can do it. You can design programs to do, bearing in mind that there is also a set job for me to do, which is monitored quarterly. On top of that there are programs that I can do. (Like what?) First you see the need of the community and you do that thing. I do meat safety awareness. It’s not in the pipeline that “you must do this;” it’s just a program I created. Spay campaigns, etc.
What is the most challenging thing about your job?
A lot of work that we do requires me to travel, but there is limited kilometers for me to travel. So I have to over travel and when I do it is hitting my pocket.
Note: Dr. Netshituni is talking about government-approved mileage that he gets reimbursed for rather than having to use his own money to pay for gas while on official business. This is a concern that was expressed to me by many government employees in the veterinary services area.
What is the best thing about being a veterinarian in South Africa?
I’ve never been a vet outside South Africa so I don’t know! I’ve never been a vet in Zimbabwe (laughing).
Veterinary services in South Africa are taken serious by the state (government) because we are a main trade partner of the EU. That is very important because we need to follow their regulations to maintain trade.
What is the most challenging thing about being a veterinarian in South Africa?
When you get a program you just need to support it, but as a veterinary professional you can see that it was not properly researched and it will fail. The politicians have a lot of power. You have to just follow what they say.
What would you like American veterinarians to know about South African veterinarians?
We kick ass (laughing).
Do you see any future trends in veterinary medicine in South Africa?
What we are trying to do in the future is work with other professions like animal production and animal sciences. We want to have state-owned projects where the vets work. This will lead to specialization for vets, like if someone just does cardiology for example.
What is your advice to students?
You must be a tough nut to break. Only if you are broken will you suffer.
What is your dream job?
Just running a successful company, not these tender* companies. To be an entrepreneur in the vet field.
*Note: In South Africa, “tenders” are contracts that private businesses have with the government to provide goods and services. The tender system here is extremely corrupt and viewed in a negative light by most people because it serves to enrich politicians and their friends instead of providing good service to the citizens.
What is your favorite veterinary word or phrase?
Dinosaurs didn’t go to vets and look what happened.
What is your favorite animal to work with and why?
Definitely not a cat. I think I like cattle more because they are in the bloody crush!* Seriously. No one is taking chances on bovines, so the clients are willing to pay. Someone has to pay for these animals. Dog people will tell you about their kids’ school fees while they are paying you.
*Note: The term “crush” refers to a cattle chute/head gate.