Bhisho warns that it may cut pay if circumcision deaths continue

NOVEMBER 25, 2014

The Eastern Cape provincial government has warned that it is considering cutting the salaries of traditional leaders if initiates they do not help curb the number of deaths from botched circumcisions.

"I am researching how much power I have [in terms of] enforcing and implementing the idea [of cutting salaries]," Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Fikile Xasa, reportedly said at the official start of the summer circumcision season at Nyandeni Great Place, near Libode.

"The government cannot fold its hands while future leaders and innocent souls are dying.

"Although we do not want to impose ourselves as the government, we cannot wait for an invitation to intervene."

43 initiates died in the Eastern Cape during last year’s summer circumcision season - up from 25 in 2012.

Since 2006, 426 000 boys have undergone the traditional rite. Of these 5 586 initiates were hospitalised, 532 died and 233 were so mutilated that penile amputations were necessary.

To date, 257 traditional circumcision practitioners have been arrested.

More than 40 000 boys are expected to be ritually circumcised during the next few weeks.

However, Prince Mlamli Ndamase, spokesman for Western Mpondoland's King Ndamase Ndamase, said the MEC faced litigation if he went ahead with his proposal.

"No labour law would allow him to do that. There is [no law] saying that he must attend to initiates and be responsible if they die," Ndamase was quoted as saying.

Still, King Ndamase said all traditional leaders under his jurisdiction would have to account for initiate deaths.

"Law enforcement agencies must arrest, prosecute and convict those turning the custom into criminality.

"It's a disgrace to us Ama-Mpondo that we are notorious for the high death rates of initiates."

The provincial chairman of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA, Chief Nkosinathi Jezile, said the MEC should rather focus on prosecuting those who carry out illegal circumcisions.

The CEO of Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, East London, Mthandeki Xamlashe, speaking on behalf of health MEC Phumza Dyantyi, said the Eastern Cape Health Department had spent R20 million on monitoring traditional initiations.