First Initiate Death Reported in Eastern Cape


A 19-year-old youth died, apparently during initiation rituals in the Eastern Cape, the Provincial Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs said on Thursday.

“A 19-year-old initiate has died in Burgersdorp and details are still sketchy at this stage,” spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam said in a statement.

He said that the department was waiting for more details and the post-mortem report from the Eastern Cape Department of Health.

Ngam said that the department’s monitoring teams had visited around 500 initiates so far, with most found to be in good condition.

In Nyandeni and Flagstaff, however, 44 initiates were rescued.

No arrests, amputations and hospital admissions have been reported by the monitoring teams so far.

“Some of the challenges include some traditional nurses refusing initiates drinking water, underage initiates, illegal schools, refusal in some areas like Nyandeni to refer initiates to places of safety hence support of the SAPS had to be requested.”

Warning about deaths

In November, Bhisho 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 dead in 2013

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 this circumcision period.