Traditional leaders and health professionals blame novice nurses

2010-06-27 12:29

Poor and inadequate care by ­inexperienced traditional nurses is to

blame for the deaths of ­initiates who have been circumcised in Pondoland,

according to health professionals and traditional leaders.

Twenty-eight of the 33 deaths in the Eastern Cape this month have

occurred in the OR Tambo region, which includes Pondoland, Mthatha and Ngcobo.

 And 22 of the 33 deaths have taken place in Pondoland, where many traditional

nurses have little or no experience.

In a number of cases, the only requirement to become a traditional

nurse is to have undergone the ritual.

The Eastern Cape’s Application of Health Standards in ­Traditional

Circumcision Act ­requires the traditional nurse to be with initiates for 24

hours a day in the crucial first eight days of the process.

After eight days, the Act says traditional nurses must see the

initiates at least once a day.

At Mcobothini village in ­Lusikisiki, a group of 16 initiates had

one traditional nurse, a young local man who was clearly out of his depth.

Police checking on whether the initiation school was registered threatened to

­arrest him.

Traditional nurses charge up to R1 000 for each initiate in their


A medical practitioner at St Barnabas Hospital said a low

percentage of the injuries could be attributed to traditional surgeons or their

lack of expertise.

“Most of these boys are ­mutilated at the nursing stage,” said the

doctor, who asked not to be identified.

Sizwe Kupelo, spokesperson for the Eastern Cape health ­department,

said its role was limited.

“Our only intervention is when we rescue the boys.”

Western Pondoland King ­Ndamase Ndamase ­refused to suspend the

practice as his counterpart has done in Eastern Pondoland, where 14 ­initiates

have died this month.

However, he vowed to be present at all future


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