Going from a boy to a man

A CIVIL engineering graduate from the Tshwane South College, Brian Mofokeng (25)*, says he was forced to go to an initiation school to become a “real man.” Although Brian's circumcision happened a few years ago, he is fearful of revealing his true identity as he speaks to Move! about his experience.


Brian, who is from Lefiswane, Mpumalanga, says the day he was kidnapped and taken to the initiation school was the scariest day of his life. He says the abduction happened while he was home for the school holidays. He was asked by an older man he knew from around the neighbourhood to accompany him somewhere and he agreed, but he never thought it would be the last time he was home. “One minute I was walking with the man and the next minute I was surrounded by three other men who told me that today was the first day I was going to be a man and I was not going back home until I became a man. Out of fear I screamed and tried to run away, but they were too strong for me,” recalls Brian.  


Brian says when he got to the initiation school, he saw a few boys he knew from his neighbourhood and was told that he had delayed coming to the mountain. He found out that the people at the initiation school had spoken to his family about him going to the initiation school and felt that this was the only way they could bring him there. “I couldn’t believe that my family knew! After I had a talk with some of the guys, I calmed myself down and accepted the situation,” he says. He adds, “I was circumcised, but I cannot go into detail about the procedure itself due to our traditional values and beliefs, which I was taught at the mountain. We are not allowed to talk about these things.”


Brian says while at the initiation school, he spent an entire month eating canned food and no meat was served.  He also had to come to terms with the fact that he was not allowed to bath, only to brush his teeth. “I was only allowed to wear a blanket. I got sick at one point and was told I had to be a man and be strong. I began fearing for my life and prayed for God’s protection. I had to be strong because they made it very clear that once you are there, there is no turning back. I was going to leave as a man,” says Brian.


Brian says they sang, danced and were taught how to behave as men. “We were taught to communicate in a manner that showed that we are now men. We were also taught to behave and present ourselves as men in society. We were even told that our dress code should differentiate us from our peers,” he says.


He says although he accepted the situation, he still had negative thoughts and wondered why his family let him go there and what would happen if he died on the mountain. “I would sometimes get very scared and ask myself if I would live to see another day because I used to read about boys who went to the mountain but never made it out alive,” he says. “But not all traditional circumcisions are botched and they differ with every culture and even some religions.”


Brian says on the morning he went back home, he was happy and filled with so much love and peace and could not wait to see his family. Many people had gathered at his home to welcome him back from the initiation school, which he says he never expected. “There were so many people waiting to welcome me home, from my friends to my family and relatives. They were all there waiting for me and they came with gifts,” he says. “My family slaughtered two cows, one to welcome me back and another to celebrate the fact that I was officially a man.”


Brian says being kidnapped and forced to go to initiation school haunted him for some time, but looking back at how his family and friends were happy and proud of him helped him get through it and he does not have any regrets. “I guess our elders sometimes know what is good for us even though we might question the way they do things. I now see things differently, especially as I have transitioned from a boy into a man,” says Brian. * Not his real name