Life without a penis

2012-01-14 14:36

Mthetheleli Miya* lost his penis in the winter circumcision season of 2006.

Since then, the 23-year-old victim of a botched circumcision has managed to hide this from neighbours, friends and teammates.

He is one of 154 young men who have lost their penises to botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape in the five years up to July last year.

His father, Danile*, says his son has led a life of seclusion for the past five years.

“I pleaded with him to return to school after the amputation,” said Miya sr at the family’s ­modest homestead at a village outside Mthatha, Eastern Cape.

He shrugged off his father’s pleas and dropped out of Grade 8 at the local school.

Mthetheleli, an ace striker in the local soccer team, said he had stopped going to school for fear of being taunted by his peers.

Teachers at his school initially asked him why he had stopped school and he ­promised he would return the following year (2007), but failed to do so.

In his eight days at his ibhoma (initiation school), Mthetheleli was with his younger brother, who successfully underwent the ritual. Mthetheleli was one of eight boys there and was the only one to experience ­difficulties.

Mthetheleli blames “evil spirits” which made him “mentally unstable” at the initiation school. “After umojiso (celebration of the first seven days of the ­ritual) I became dizzy and weak at my knees,” Mthetheleli ­explains.

His father said his two sons never informed him of their planned circumcision in 2006. “I only got to know after there were problems,” Miya said.

Because of the costs involved in undergoing the ritual, Mthetheleli’s father could not afford to take his sons through the process. Peer pressure forced his sons to join their friends without their father’s knowledge.

Members of the local interdepartmental circumcision task team, which includes police and provincial health department officials, rescued Mthetheleli from the initiation school and took him to the nearby St Barnabas Hospital.

Their ikhankatha (attendant) only informed Mthetheleli’s ­father after he had been taken to hospital.

He was later taken to ­Mthatha’s Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital, where his penis was amputated after he developed gangrene.

This angered Mthetheleli’s father – he feels he should have been informed before the ­amputation. “What will my son’s future be now?” he asks.

Mthetheleli’s ingcibi (traditional surgeon) was later ­arrested, convicted and handed a brief sentence.

They have not seen the ­ingcibi since he hastily left the initiation school. Miya senior only saw him during his court ­appearances.

Now, Mthetheleli builds houses in his village and works with his cousin, an established builder. “I can lay bricks and plaster walls,” he said.

His father wants his eldest son to study his chosen trade and hopes he will be successful in applying for financial aid.

To hide his amputated penis from his teammates, Mthetheleli leaves his parents’ home ­already kitted out for training or games.

A doctor who treats some of the victims of botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape blamed dehydration and harsh conditions faced by initiates for the amputations.

“A lot of traditional practices have to change if the Eastern Cape is to win the battle against deadly circumcisions,” said the doctor, who refused to be ­identified.

* Not their real names

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