ANC: Circumcisions 'a cash cow'

2013-05-29 20:27
Mathole Motshekga (Picture: GCIS)

Mathole Motshekga (Picture: GCIS)

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Cape Town - Individuals have turned the cultural practice of initiation schools into a cash cow, ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said on Wednesday.

In a snap debate in the National Assembly, Motshekga said the deaths of dozens of youths in Mpumalanga and Limpopo showed there was a dire need to transform initiation schools.

"The death of more than 40 youth in the Mpumalanga province is a painful wake-up call for us to embark on a holistic and national transformation of our initiation schools," he said.

"These schools cannot be allowed to become slaughter-houses."

He called for laws aligning the cultural practice with the constitutionally guaranteed right to life.

"It is quite clear that we need national legislation that provides for norms and standards, pertaining to age limitations, participation of parents, health workers, prohibition of harmful substances, qualification of officials of initiation schools and the harmonisation of the calendars of initiation and mainline schools," Motshekga said.

He said a debate on the abolition of the schools would not be entertained, as the initiation schools were part of African culture and tradition.

The death of initiates was blamed on those trying to make a quick buck by conning parents.

"Individuals who are not guided by African spiritual and cultural values underpinning initiations of both male and females have secularised and commercialised initiation schools with impunity," he said.


The Democratic Alliance repeated its call for a judicial commission of inquiry into the matter, insisting that culture should not be allowed to threaten the lives of the country's children.

"We must together as Parliament, regardless of political affiliation, make a promise to the families of those who have lost their sons that we will use our oversight powers to ensure that there are consequences for those who have abused their positions in the name of culture," said DA MP George Boinamo.

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Russel Cebekhulu said circumcision had become harmful, and it needed to be "modernised".

"There is no reason to not to use sterile circumcision equipment, [and] for not having competent medical personnel on standby in any event of complication[s]," he said.

The IFP wants the health department to deploy medical support staff to initiation schools, and for traditional leaders to support such a move.

"Fly-by-night initiation schools must not be allowed," he said.

The Independent Democrats said conmen were behind the botched circumcisions.

"The exploitation of young men and their families is becoming more and more prevalent, and some criminals have turned this honourable practice into a money-making racket... Not only is this criminal, but a shame and an attack on the age-old cultural practice," said ID MP Hanif Hoosen.

The United Democratic Movement said the deaths could have been avoided had all roleplayers played their part.

UDM MP Stanley Ntapane said even parents who waited long periods of time to report complications arising from circumcision should share the blame.

"In the final analysis, in the law must take its course on all those responsible for the deaths of our young boys," he said.

The Freedom Front Plus said while the Bill of Rights provided that people be allowed to engage in cultural practices, it was important this principle did not clash with the constitutional imperative of the right to life.

"There is something wrong somewhere.

"The responsibility lies with communities where these practices are done, to ensure they're done in a proper manner which respects the rights of initiates," said FFPlus MP Corne Mulder.


African Christian Democratic Party president Kenneth Meshoe expressed shock at the lack of action against those responsible for the deaths.

"What is surprising, though, is that no one has to date taken responsibility for these deaths, and no arrests have been made," he said.

Meshoe said he supported a suggestion by the SA Medical Association that circumcisions be done by someone who was trained, while the teaching part be done by traditional leaders.

He said a set of minimum requirements needed to be introduced in all provinces.

This would include the setting up of a database of registered initiation schools, and ensuring there were penalties for those running illegal schools.

Several provinces have their own acts which govern initiation schools, which has led to a reduction in the number of boys who died from circumcision.

PAC leader Letlape Mphahlele agreed that strict rules should govern the opening of initiation schools, but suggested the National Treasury should foot the bill for the initiation of young boys and girls.

Circumcisions should be performed by medical professionals under hygienic conditions.

"We won't condone the murder and maiming of young men in the name of tradition," said Mphahlele.
Read more on:    da  |  acdp  |  udm  |  pac  |  sama  |  ifp  |  ff plus  |  kenneth meshoe  |  mathole motshekga  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013  |  culture

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