Two Eastern Cape initiates die at illegal circumcision schools, 84 rescued

JUNE 23, 2016

The Ministry for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs says it is saddened by the death of two initiates in the OR Tambo District Municipality early into the Eastern Cape's winter traditional circumcision season.

The two initiates, a 19 year-old from Enyandeni and another from the King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality, died as a result of dehydration and intestinal obstruction respectively. According to CoGTA, they had attended illegal initiation schools.

“It saddens me that this death happened even though we have put in place key issues that should be followed by parents before the young men embark on the initiation process. This includes pre-screening of young men before embarking on the initiation process, ensuring that initiation schools are properly registered, including the surgeons and ensuring that they drink water to avoid dehydration,” said Deputy Minister Obed Bapela.

The deputy Minister indicated that it is unacceptable that initiates should still die when we have put mechanisms in place to address this issues.

"We want to reiterate that initiates should do away with the myth that they should not drink water before and during the initiation as this will always result in their death due to dehydration."

However, the Deputy Minister commends the initiation coordinating teams, which are operating on the ground for having rescued about 84 initiates from illegal schools. Five initiates from those, who were rescued, are in serious condition whilst the remaining initiates 79 were relocated to a safe area on Wednesday.

“We welcome the arrest of the traditional surgeon for the death of one initiate and continue to call for more arrests as people act wrongfully in the name of culture,” said Deputy Minister Bapela.

“Guided by our theme – We Love Our Tradition, We Value Life of Our Youthwe urge parents and communities in general not to drop the ball, but should remain vigilant throughout this period to ensure that our children return back home alive, let’s adopt Zero Tolerance to initiation deaths.

"We urge communities to report any wrong doing related to initiation through this hotline number – 0800 111 166 or #InitiationDTA."

The passing of these two initiates brings the number of deaths so far to five (two in Mpumalanga, one in Gauteng and two in the Eastern Cape).

In many communities young men embark on this sacred path towards adulthood with the hope of coming back into their communities transformed into being matured men. This rite of passage is critical to young men developing into responsible, community-oriented adults and has been a central element of traditional African cultures since time immemorial and a necessary part of many African communities.