Initiation deaths: ‘culprits will be charged with murder’

2012-08-14 10:15

The Eastern Cape government will move for traditional surgeons or nurses found to be responsible for the death of an initiate during the traditional Xhosa rite of passage to be charged with murder.

Traditional Affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane wants those responsible to pay the highest price.

This comes as close to 50 deaths were registered this June.

Qoboshiyane said deaths were the result of “negligence and the erosion of basic values that underpinned this custom”.

“We are look at crafting legislation that will say in any death related to this, traditional surgeons or their nurses must be charged,” he said.

In the past, most traditional surgeons and nurses arrested faced charges related to negligence and these were brought by the parents, who often did not see cases through.

Qoboshiyane said it was a crisis that 47 deaths had occurred in what is essentially the first half of the 2012 initiation season, as thousands more youth are expected to undergo the rite in December.

This number of deaths this June is a sharp increase from the 26 deaths this time last year, and six more than June 2010.

Education MEC Mandla Makupula said although the extent of government interventions into cultural practices, particularly this rite of passage, is a thorny issue, government undertook to perform more monitoring in a bid to stave off the needless deaths.

He said the ruling ANC had discussed the issue of ulwaluko (circumcision) at length during its provincial legkotla at the weekend.

“The lekgotla said traditional surgeons must be registered and must also undergo some form of medical training in handling health matter ... This goes up to the level of how much experience surgeons, and those who look after these boys have,” he said.

The Pondoland, where the rite had been discontinued and started up again in recent years, was still highlighted as the area where the most incidents were reported because of a shortage of experienced people to oversee the rite. In these areas parents often did not take much interest in the rite because they did not undergo it.

Other causes highlighted is the young age of initiates, the quality of treatment they get from inexperienced nurses, and acts of physical abuse on the part of those charged with looking after them.

Qoboshiyane also said traditional councils, which get paid by government, would be required to do more monitoring in their areas as part of their job descriptions.

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