Don’t leave the rite to youngsters – activists

MEN for Change has come out guns blazing over the death toll in the latest initiation season in the Eastern Cape, accusing men of leaving the custom in the hands of young, inexperienced traditional nurses.

The organisation’s director, the Rev Xolamzi Sam, said the 39 deaths this winter would have been prevented had men taken a larger role in the age-old custom. “You don’t need to be the father of the initiate to visit and check how they are doing in the mountains. Fathers and uncles have taken a backseat and now young boys are looking after these initiates,” said Sam.

“They don’t have any experience, they are just fiddling around.”

He was responding to a Daily Dispatch Special Report published last week on the state of the rite in the province.

In a week-long investigation the Dispatch visited the homes of the 39 casualties hearing the tragic stories of their parents, siblings and uncles.

Some youths had dreamt of becoming doctors, nurses and teachers – all dreams cut short by initiation school.

According to the health department, 21 of the initiates died at illegal initiation schools.

Out of 359 initiates admitted to hospital, 13 had penile amputations. While some died as a result of assault, others suffered from gangrene and dehydration.

Sam said that as an organisation they had observed what was happening in the province and were worried by it.

“Let us not look at the recent number – 462 have died in the past six years. What is this? This is not child’s play. This is not an AmaMpondo problem. It is the entire province’s concern – the government should prioritise this and find a solution. One lost initiate is one too many.”

Provincial organiser Cingile Blacky said harsh action should be taken against illegal surgeons and nurses.

He said traditional leaders should monitor the custom more than any other group.

“Traditional leaders are the custodians of this custom and they need to not fail the nation.

“We should be getting direction from them. What I’ve observed is that in all these seasons we’ve been counting how many we’ve lost. That’s painful.

“Men should get involved, not leave this to the youngsters,” he said. — bonganif@dispatch.co.za

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