Over 500 Eastern Cape initiates lost in eight years
There are fears the figure might rise further as there is still a week before the official end of the winter circumcision season.
Five initiates died at the weekend.
A total of 40 initiates died during the 2013 winter season and 24 had penile amputations.
Officials from the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs and the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders (ECHTL) announced the increase in the death toll at the funeral of one of the initiates, Afika Nocanda, 18, at Ncise village in Mthatha on Saturday.
The Grade 12 Ngwayibanjwa Senior Secondary School pupil died of septicaemia and heart failure on June 30.
His funeral service was turned into a safe traditional initiation awareness campaign with speakers including officials from government, ECHTL, Community Development Foundation (Codefsa), Amafa Ethu Heritage Consultants (AEHC) and residents.
Speakers encouraged parents and communities to participate fully in their children’s initiation rite.
They spoke on how initiates were being tortured in illegal initiation schools, and how the institution process had become criminal.
Provincial government official David Hibana said the death toll was increasing daily.
“We lost 32 lives in such a short period. More than anything, we desperately need your maximised participation as parents and communities. They are your sons, don’t fold your arms while they are dying,” he pleaded.
AEHC executive director Sicebi Noah said an initiate was recently raped or sodomised by a traditional nurse in Cala.
“It’s shocking and embarrassing. The initiate’s family entrusted him to look after their son. These things happen because you as parents are disassociated with the initiation of your own sons,” said Noah.
Codefsa, an NGO assisting in curbing deaths, contributed financially towards Afika’s funeral.
“In Lusikisiki we have rescued 200 initiates from illegal initiation schools and 12 in Nyandeni,” said Codefsa’s Maneno Tabane. — firstname.lastname@example.org