How ‘traditional’ surgeons are getting away with murder

2010-07-04 11:49

Fewer than 10% of traditional surgeons who kill and maim scores of young boys in Eastern Cape are ­successfully convicted.

City Press has established that over the past nine years more than 70 ­traditional surgeons (ingcibis) and nurses (inkankatha) have been charged ­under ­circumcision legislation, but 93% of them had their cases struck off the roll.

As a result, ingcibis with shady track records are allowed to practise year ­after year without any ­punitive measures being enforced, ­according to the ­Eastern Cape health department and provincial police.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo this week said that of the five recorded convictions to date, none was imprisoned and all were ­merely slapped with ­suspended ­sentences or fines ranging ­between R3?000 and R6?000.

Kupelo said: “Parents and initiates either refuse to testify in court – because ­discussing the tradition in public is considered taboo – or they just fail to attend the court proceedings.”

Libode police station’s Warrant Officer Malixole Ngumbela said even though they registered at least 10 new cases each circumcision ­season, he had not had a single conviction in his 10 years at the station.

He said: “We do thorough investigations and complete dockets, but ­the prosecutions are sometimes hampered by the lack of co-operation from parents, initiates and communities.”

So far this year 40 initiates have died – just less than half of last year’s total of 91 – and about 150 have been ­admitted to hospitals across the ­province.

One illegal ingcibi, ­Mtshayina ­Ndoda, is facing 35 charges of performing illegal ­circumcisions and has evaded a lengthy prison term despite allegedly being ­responsible for the death or serious injury of at least 35 young men.

Two illegal circumcision cases are currently in court in Libode. One ­involves a 17-year-old “traditional nurse” who is facing a charge of ­culpable homicide for allegedly assaulting an ­initiate, ­resulting in his death.

The other case is against 24-year-old ­Asanda Dlova, alleged to have unlawfully ­circumcised a youth of 16.

Most initiates’ deaths occur in the Pondoland area, where the ­circumcision season runs from June to July and from December to January.

The process serves as a rite of ­passage for young Xhosa men as they reach the age of maturity.

Minister of Co-operative Governance and ­Traditional Affairs ­Sicelo ­Shiceka said this week he had ­prepared a policy paper aimed at introducing accountability among ­traditional surgeons and generally looking into how initiation schools are managed.

Shiceka wants harsher sentences to be imposed on those found to be running ­illegal initiation schools and intends having policy in place by September, before the summer initiation season. 

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