22 die, circumcisions suspended
East London - Traditional circumcisions were suspended in the Pondoland area on Friday after the death toll following botched circumcisions rose to 22, the Eastern Cape health department said.
The decision to suspend the circumcisions for this season was taken at a meeting between health MEC Phumulo Masuale, traditional healers, surgeons and community members in the Lusikisiki area.
"Those who attended the meeting were in agreement... this will allow us to intervene and to deal with those boys who are already in the mountain," said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.
Teams comprising doctors, police officers, traditional healers and surgeons would be dispatched to various posts to assess the boys.
Hospitals in the area were under pressure to deal with the sharp rise in botched circumcisions. This contributed to the decision to put a hold on the procedure.
Since the start of the winter circumcision season, boys had been brought into health facilities in "terrible condition", most were dehydrated and some faced gangrene setting into their wounds.
The death toll rose from 20 to 22 from Thursday to Friday morning, said Kupelo. One boy died from his injuries at the Gxulu village and another in a village outside East London.
Sixty boys had so far been rescued from 11 initiation schools that had since been closed down. They were taken to various hospitals in the area.
Earlier this week, 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.
Kupelo said the department was seeking meetings with the police, justice department and the National Prosecuting Authority to discuss the possibility of setting up special circumcision courts.