Initiate dies in Queenstown

A 23-year-old man has died while attending a school offering circumcision rituals illegally, the Eastern Cape health department said on Tuesday.

The man died of dehydration at the school in Sada outside Queenstown on Monday, said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.

His was the second death in a week. Another candidate enrolled for a circumcision rite died at Engcobo and nine more were taken to hospital after an initiation school in Magcakini, near Libode, was closed.

“It worries us that these deaths continue regardless of efforts to curb it,” Kupelo said.

“We are appealing to the community at large to try to put a stop to this thing.”

The department is working closely with traditional leaders for compliance with the Traditional Circumcision Act which regulates the process and specifies conditions and hygiene standards to prevent infections and the transmission of HIV/Aids.

Kupelo said hygienic practices were not adhered to at the illegal schools and that one instrument had been used to circumcise up to 30 initiates.

“They are using one instrument to circumcise so this contributes to the spread of HIV/Aids. If the first boy is positive, then the other 29 can become infected,” Kupelo said.

Part of the department’s intervention included providing sterilising chemicals and checking and treating each initiate for sexually transmitted diseases and pneumonia.

The department met 17 traditional leaders last week in preparation for the forthcoming circumcisions, has held radio awareness campaigns, and hired a fleet of 4X4 vehicles to monitor the schools.
Three helicopters were on standby to rescue initiates in trouble.

However, its efforts were hampered by a group of people stigmatising initiates at regulated schools as “amadoda phepha” [paper boys] and discouraging them from using the regulated system.

“We are aware that we are not the custodians of the tradition, but people are dying,” said Kupelo.

So far this year three traditional surgeons and one traditional nurse have been arrested for contravening the Act. They face prison sentences of up to 15 years.

Over 300 initiates have died since 1995 and at least 76 have had their genitals amputated after botched circumcisions. At least 6 000 initiates have been admitted to hospital for treatment.

Circumcision—the surgical removal of a boy’s or man’s foreskin—is a practice that is part of many cultures.

Circumcision in an operating theatre—either at birth or later—is common, but many cultures choose to combine it with a later private rite of passage that many youths are eager to be part of.

Female circumcision—where the clitoris is cut and the entrance to the vagina is narrowed—is not common in South Africa. - Sapa