Time to question initiate deaths

2018-07-22 10:02

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After at least 19 young men died during the Eastern Cape’s winter initiation season, cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Fikile Xasa has called for an imbizo to deal with the problem, while traditional leaders are asking for specialised courts to prosecute perpetrators.

The death toll rose from last year’s 11 fatalities, with most of the young men dying in the OR Tambo District Municipality, particularly in Nyandeni in Libode.

“We are planning to convene a number of iimbizo in the kingdom of Western Pondoland. We might extend it to other areas, but the main focus would be Nyandeni,” Xasa said.

“Some serious questions must be asked of the people there, difficult questions because you can easily say parents don’t care. Even these young fellows [would-be initiates] don’t care. They don’t fear what we thought is something difficult to go through,” he said.

Xasa blamed parents and initiates for hiding illegal traditional surgeons responsible for the death toll.

In Nyandeni there were many cases of boys who underwent medical male circumcision, but after being ridiculed by society they were forced to go through traditional initiation. Although this trend was confined to Western Pondoland for now, it was worrying, Xasa said.

“Medical male circumcision is a choice made by parents. If they chose that, why would they allow their children to go through everything twice?” he asked.

Xasa said it was difficult to enforce the law when parents and affected people hid illegal traditional surgeons and refused to press charges against them.

“They won’t tell you who performed the circumcisions. It’s like when we are not there, they practice how best to hide these illegal surgeons,” he said.

“We cannot force the National Prosecuting Authority to prosecute when there is no cooperation from those affected.”

Xasa said 15 cases were opened, but only five people were arrested and then released for lack of evidence.

Notorious Nyandeni illegal traditional surgeon, Mshiyelwa “Mtshayina” Ndoda, who has admitted to circumcising underage boys in Western Pondoland over the years, is still on the run.

Xasa said the operation to apprehend him was not properly planned. Police had spotted him but could not land a helicopter in the mountainous area where he was seen two weeks ago.

“We have left everything to the police. We want them to arrest him because he has cases to answer, but I know the community in the area is behind him. They think we are harassing him,” he said.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, says specialised courts are needed for “speedy justice” and to avoid “lost” dockets.

While 19 young men died this year, about 100 initiates were hospitalised.

Cogta spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam said he could not confirm the exact number of injured initiates or those who suffered penile amputations because those figures were still being consolidated.

“But there are boys who have lost their manhood, which is a concern for all of us,” Nonkonyana said.

“We sent teams to investigate and found one main cause is that our future leaders died because some parents didn’t care for their children. Traditional leaders have also disappointed us.”


What should authorities and communities do to prevent illegal circumcisions, and deal with those who perform them?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword CIRCUMCISIONS and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    initiation  |  health

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