Initiation: They sang while my son was beaten to death


Johannesburg - Cinga Maphetshane was beaten to death while his friends sang.

The 17-year-old died after a savage assault at an initiation school outside Gxulu Village in Libode, Eastern Cape. The traditional nurses allegedly ordered his fellow initiates to sing loudly to muffle his screams for help.

Cinga died four days before he was to return home to his mother, Nombulelo, 48, who had not given him permission to undergo the passage to manhood.

Overwhelmed by peer pressure, the Grade 8 pupil from St Patrick’s High School in Mthatha and seven of his friends took themselves to the legal initiation school on June 21. His family had no idea he was going to do this – they had planned for him to be circumcised in December.

Reeling in shock, Nombulelo still has no idea why her only son was beaten to death. She told City Press that the family had planned to have a small ceremony to welcome him back home, and a bigger feast was planned for December.

She only became aware of the fact that Cinga had gone to the school after the family was contacted by the ingcibi (traditional surgeon) two days after her son was circumcised, when he came to demand money.

“I had just accepted that my son had gone to an initiation school without my blessing and promised the ingcibi that we would make a plan to pay the R600 he was demanding when he came back home,” Nombulelo said.

Last Sunday, the ingcibi visited again, this time to demand R400 to buy traditional herbs for Cinga, who he said had become delusional and confused while at the initiation school. The next day, his dead body was brought home.

“We raised the R400 he was asking and gave it to him,” she said through tears.

“The next day my son was dead. All I want is answers and justice for my son because we have been told that he was beaten to death at the initiation school. The whole thing about herbs and him being confused was just a cover-up.

“The pain I feel inside is unexplainable.”

Her remaining child is Cinga’s 25-year-old sister, on whom the family has now pinned their hopes.

“Cinga was very passionate about education. He wanted to be a lawyer or teacher and become his own man. He loved people. He was very humble and such a joy to have as a son because he was very polite,” she said.

Cinga’s father, Orlando, 67, was distraught.

“On the day he died, there was this loud noise of singing coming from the initiation school. The initiates were singing at the top of their voices, singing joyous songs,” he said.

“I later learnt that during the time they were singing, my son was being beaten and was crying for help. The initiates were instructed to sing loudly so that my son’s cry for help could be drowned by the singing. We thought everything was fine, but to later have him sent to us as a corpse was unbelievable and shocking.”

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July 2020

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