One man’s crusade for change

A young Eastern Cape ingcibi (traditional surgeon) is planning to

overhaul long-standing procedures to stop the mutilation and killing of young

boys in Pondoland.

Nkululeko Ntlanganisela, a resident of Mthumbane, a small township

outside Port St Johns, has only been a practising ingcibi since 2006, but has

already been appointed to lead more experienced traditional surgeons.

Through his efforts in ensuring the health of initiates, he has had

his largest group (42)during this year’s circumcision season. Before this, the

33-year-old’s highest number of initiates was eight. He believes this increase

is due to the trust parents have in his work, for which he charges R100 an

initiate rather than the R350 Western Pondoland iingcibi settled on a few months

ago.

Among the things Ntlanganisela does differently include:

» Being

present when initiates undergo medical examinations and working closely with

doctors;

» Insisting

on reporting to local traditional leaders in every village he has initiates;

and

» Unlike

many surgeons, Ntlanganisela keeps regular contact with his initiates and

traditional nurses caring for them.


More than 30 of these initiates are in Noqhekwane, a picturesque

village overlooking the Indian ocean near the Mzimvubu River mouth in Port St

Johns.

Ntlanganisela, known to locals as “Coach”, chairs the interim

structure of iingcibi formed in May in Western Pondoland, a region with the

second-highest number of circumcision-related deaths in the Eastern Cape.

“As chairperson of iingcibi I want to learn as much as possible and

hopefully stem the spate of deaths in our area,” Ntlanganisela told City Press

this week.

The present structure is the second attempt to establish a formal

iingcibi organisation after the failure of the previous committee two years

ago.

In Mthumbane, there is a committee in charge of circumcision, says

Ntlanganisela. Would-be initiates are reported to the committee, which runs the

practice.

Provincial health department officials say they work well with

Ntlanganisela, whom they describe as open-minded and willing to entertain fresh

ideas without compromising the practice.

In his current group, one initiate is on treatment for a mental

illness but Ntlanganisela encouraged him to take his medication even at the

initiation school. This is different to many iingcibi, who deny their initiates

access to treatment for chronic conditions they have.

“It would be an error not to work closely with the provincial

health department because when initiates run away from the bush they go to

hospitals,” Ntlanganisela says.

He encourages other iingcibi to be present when their initiates go

for medical examinations.

“People must learn from the way we operate in Mthumbane.”
 
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