Zulu men welcome the snip

2010-04-12 00:00

AFTER more than two centuries without ritual male circumcision within the Zulu nation, the revival of the practice by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini was greeted with jubilation at the weekend.

His Majesty and KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Dr Sbongiseni Dhlomo, officially launched the revival of this practice in Nongoma on Saturday.

This ritual was discontinued during the reign of King Shaka, who decided to “halt” it so that his amabFutho (warriors) could focus on war, to unite the Zulu nation.

But with KwaZulu-Natal having the highest rate of HIV/Aids infection in the country, it was decided to revive the practice on medical grounds, as circumcision reduces the chance of infection with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

On December 5 last year, during the Ukweshwama (First Fruits) ceremony at eNyokeni Royal Palace, the king announced that the Health Department had offered to help with the medical procedure.

At the weekend, thousands of young amabutho and teenagers queued for the operation, performed by more than two dozen medical doctors and other health workers at four centres in the Nongoma area.

The main venue for the programme was St Benedictine Hospital where hundreds of youths waited patiently for their turn.

At the other three circumcision centres at eMahhashini, Nongoma clinic and KwaMajomela Love Life centre in Osuthu, jubilant but fearful youth were seen in long queues as sweating health workers worked quickly to keep up with the demand.

Even Dhlomo and Health Department HOD Dr Sibongile Zungu got involved as they helped at the circumcision centres.

Enthusiasm from the youth saw people from as far as eMpangeni, Vryheid and Paulpietersburg flocking to the Nongoma centres. Some slept in hospital passages on Saturday night as the response from the communities forced the department to continue with the programme yesterday.

Mfanelo Zulu (22) of Osuthu said he decided to participate in the programme after local izinduna (headmen) conveyed the message from the king for them to participate.

“I was scared, but when I underwent the process, I discovered it was not as painful as I imagined. I am very happy to be confirmed as a man,” Zulu said.

Scelo Nkwanyana (18) of Ophalule, who was circumcised at St Benedictine Hospital, said although he is not yet sexually active, he is happy that when he starts, he will be at a lower risk of contracting STIs.

Zwelithini said he decided to involve medical practitioners to avoid the senseless deaths that are associated with the practice in other parts of the country.

“I took this bold stand because of this pandemic facing my people, and our entire continent. I am grateful that the provincial government heeded my announcement and are helping in the implementation of the programme. I am also confident that it will be successful, as everything is done with the help of medical practitioners,” he said.

Zwelithini likened the fight against HIV/Aids to a “Third World War”, saying it must be fought from all possible angles for it to be defeated.

He appealed to the newly circumcised not to sleep around, as circumcision does not prevent HIV infection, but only reduces it.

Explaining the procedure, Dhlomo said the department imported the system used in the Muslim country of Malaysia where circumcision is compulsory for all males.

“After the patient has been medically screened and counselled, a Malaysian … tarra clamp is clamped on the penis to remove the foreskin. The clamp is placed on the penis for seven days and the patient comes back to the centre for it to be removed,” Dhlomo said.

He emphasised that the system is faster than the conventional method of surgery, which they were taught as medical students. It takes about five minutes, while conventional surgery takes more than 30 minutes.

KZN Health Department spokesman Chris Maxon said the programme has been implemented using the present health budget, as circumcision is part of the daily functions of public hospitals. Maxon added that extra funds will be sourced from donor organisations.

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