It is that time of the year where thousands of young boys take their initiation journey to manhood. Sadly, it is not all initiates that reach their destiny, for some it becomes the journey to “death” instead of manhood.
According to a statement issued by Isaac Mangena, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Head: Communications, July 2 2014, over 300 minor boys have lost their lives in the initiation process in the past 5years. The deaths are usually caused by the fact that the men initiating them are not professionally capable. They are just respected older men of society, which are believed to be capable to master this process only because they also went through it.
In Nguni cultures it is believed that if a boy does not undergo this “mountain initiation process” they will never be a “MAN”.
This is contradictory amongst the different Nguni cultures as the central Nguni’s (Zulus) do not believe in this. The fact that Zulu males do not undergo the mountain initiation process has raised questions as to how they differentiate men and boys.
“Are we Zulus the only African cultural group who do not regard circumcision as cultural practice? So what trials do our boys go through to become Men really? Are we raising and being raised by grown boys or by Men? Does it really matter?” These are some of the questions asked by Zulu men who are now starting to question their roles as real men.
However, it is not every Zulu man concerned whether society regards them as real men or not. In contrary they are relieved that their culture does not practice this “now feared and life-threatening” journey to manhood.
Mncedisi Buthelezi, a Zulu man, said he is glad he did not go through cultural circumcision and would not risk taking his children taking that uncertain route.
“I personally wouldn't risk taking my child for "cultural circumcision", a lot of people lose their lives at the mountain, 35 just this season. Take your child to a medical doctor and raise them with good morals then I guarantee you they will be a real man” said Buthelezi
Some Xhosa and Sotho males even wish that their culture was just like the Zulu culture.
Siyabulela Nogula, who went through “cultural initiation” initiation said he would not advise anyone to go to the mountain, even his children will not go there. He says he just wishes that their culture was similar to the Zulu culture, especially with regards to the circumcision issue.
“People think going to the mountain is as simple as going, chopping the “polo neck” off then back. The treatment there is not good, not only do people die, some get infected with different un-curable diseases. My children will never go there. I’d rather have alive grown boys than have dead men for sons.” Added Nogula
At what cost can we continue to respect culture? When does respecting culture become too much? How many young men are forced to endure this due to societal and family pressure?
The question we should ask ourselves is “Do we prefer to have “grown boys” or “dead men for sons?”.