Protect boys, preserve heritage

The recent tragic deaths of initiates raise questions about the role of families, communities and traditional leaders in this rite of passage.

Traditional initiation is a family and community affair, which ought to be done with dignity.

In Eastern Cape, we too have lost scores of initiates due to ill-health, physical abuse and botched circumcision.

The rage we express must encourage families, communities and traditional leaders to be actively involved in the initiation of their boys.

We must teach them never to be initiated without the permission and involvement of their families and traditional leaders. Traditional leaders must guide families headed by females and children when initiating their boys.

Guidance ensures that boys get parental consent, do premedical tests, and consult ingcibi (traditional surgeons) known by elders before initiation.

A community elder must oversee whatever happens at eBhomeni to ensure the safety of our children. Traditional leaders, working with our department, lead efforts to eradicate deaths and amputations.

Since December 2010, we lost about 113 young boys to varying causes of death.

Protecting the lives of our boys while preserving our heritage is very important, hence we released educational guidelines to safe and proper traditional initiation.

We call on our communities to follow them to the letter to ensure that initiation is not fraught with deaths, abuse and amputations.

Until we implement them, we won’t win the war against bungled traditional initiation.

As we get ready for the June initiation season, we need to gird our loins to ensure that not a single boy will die at emaBhomeni.

We are visiting communities previously hit by initiates’ deaths and amputations, preparing them for proper initiation.

Traditional initiation doesn’t kill. It prepares boys to become men.

Any ingcibi who doesn’t care for the initiates causes deaths and frustrates our efforts.

After circumcising boys, ingcibi examine them to ensure all is well with no errors. They then consult other men for inspection.

Caring ingcibi visit iBhoma to check on the condition of abakhwetha (initiates).

iKhankatha (traditional nurse) must be someone senior, a person who has a number of years of experience having been initiated with skills and experience to care for abakhwetha.

Many communities in our province have done this with zero deaths and amputations because of their commitment to protecting their children.

Local men have a duty to educate abakhwetha while they are at eBhomeni so that they come out mature.

Abakhwetha are taught discipline, good conduct, and not to abuse women and children but to be community builders.

We must discourage boys from running away to emaBhomeni without the permission of their parents.

» Qoboshiyane is the local government and traditional affairs MEC and ANC MPL in Eastern Cape. He writes in his personal capacity

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