The right steps to the rite of passage

2015-04-30 13:44


Abakhwetha PHOTO: gallo

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The Western Cape has always been proud of its performance with regards to the safety measures applied during the initiation of our boys into manhood.

This is despite the negative press, especially from the mainstream media.

Injuries do occur and sometimes death is reported during the season, especially in summer.

We should, however, be careful to differentiate between the rite of passage and the practices of unscupulous individuals.

Umeluko is not circumcision, but a part of this process that constitutes less than half a minute but it is a crucial part of the process.

The concern though is that the response to this process is the introduction of different circumcision tools ranging from clamps to Israeli developed tools. However, bayawuphosa umhlola.

The crucial aspect of umeluko is the after care. It is the role played by amakhankatha and the families in providing support and physical care to the initiate.

That is where we fall short as a community. That is where the training of those responsible for the after care is crucial.

It is where most families fall short in identifying and appointing the right, experienced, disciplined and knowledgeable individuals to guide the initiates on their journey to manhood and responsibility as future leaders of the communities that they come from.

It is at this point that real learning and wisdom is sacrificed at the altar of economic expedience. It is at this point that families appoint the local unemployed, irresponsible, drinking and sometimes drug induced layabouts to take on this crucial task.

It is at this juncture that the future leader, citizen, father and carer is put at risk, exposed to alcohol abuse, is not taken care of, is at risk of septicaemia, dehydration, ill treatment and all kinds of ills that the media revels in.

It is at this point that the rite of passage, the transition to another stage in life, the opportunity to learn life lessons, is lost.

It does not necessarily have to be so. Embo Initiation Committee in Langa has over the past decade and a half, developed some of the safest processes that ensure that umeluko is what it is supposed to be, that the essential elements of this sacred practice are adhered to.

The provincial Government of the Western Cape has incorporated some of these elements into its initiation guidelines.

These include the training of amakhankatha in basic health and hygiene, an age restriction of 18 and over for prospective initiates, limiting the number of charges (initiates) allocated to each khankatha so as to ensure maximum attention for each initiate, a thorough medical check-up at least two months before the prospective initiate is due for initiation and accessible care should the need arise .

The fencing off of the initiation site so as to provide the important element of seclusion for those undergoing the process.

The environmental sustainability aspect of the site is also a priority consideration.

No trees from the site are to be felled as those available are to provide the shelter and most of all, the crucial aspect of privacy and seclusion for those undergoing the process.

The role of parents cannot be over emphasised when it comes to initiation, learning about umzi wakowabo for umkhwetha can only come from the family.

The moral support of a father, tatomncinci,malume,mzala or ubhuti can make a difference in the learning process of the initiate.

Umntana akayanga kulahlwa esuthwini.

Nutrition such as home cooked food instead of the unhealthy take aways with lots of vegetables can play a big part in the wellbeing of the initiate.

Therefore the next time you as a parent of a prospective initiate are requested to adhere to all the requirements, it is only to ensure that the process that the initiate is going through is safe, enriching and he will turn out the way he is supposed to be

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