News24

13 initiates die in 12 days

2010-06-17 11:50

East London - Two more initiates have died in the Eastern Cape, bringing to 13 the number of circumcision-related deaths in the past 12 days, the provincial health department said on Thursday.

A 16-year-old youth from Nxukhwebe village in Libode died on Wednesday night, spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo told Sapa.

Officials from the department were raiding illegal initiation schools in the Port St Johns area on Wednesday when they learnt of another death of an initiate that happened on Sunday night.

The teenager from Port St Johns' KwaQubuswayo village died on his way to hospital after his father arranged for him to get treatment.

"His is a sad case because he went for initiation without his parents' permission and because his father was not circumcised, he was not allowed into the initiation school.

"He had to depend on reports from traditional nurses about his son's health and it was too late when they told him of his condition," said Kupelo.

The teenager died on his way to hospital. A post-mortem to determine the actual cause of his death was expected soon.

MEC visiting hospital

Meanwhile, Health MEC Phumulo Masuale was on Thursday visiting the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha where a number of boys were facing penile amputation.

He would also visit illegal initiation schools in Mthatha, Libode and Lusikisiki, before meeting traditional leaders in the areas over the deaths.

Seven under-aged initiates were rescued from an illegal initiation school run by Mtshiyelwa Mtshayina Ndoda, a 55-year-old unregistered traditional surgeon who had been arrested several times for the offence.

"He was recently given a three-year suspended sentence but he continued doing the same thing. In the past five years close to 20 initiates died in his schools and 15 had their penises amputated."

Ndoda has a pending case of operating an illegal initiation school which will be heard on July 22.

Kupelo said the department was also seeking meetings with the police, justice department and the National Prosecuting Authority to discuss the prosecution of those contravening the Traditional Circumcision Act, which regulates the custom in the province.

"The major problem is that parents are reluctant to prosecute illegal traditional surgeons who sometimes force their children into circumcision at a very young age.

"We identify the perpetrators, but if parents are not willing to open cases against them, they are freed and continue illegally circumcising and killing these boys," Kupelo said.

Last year alone, 91 initiates died and hundreds were hospitalised in the province.