Initiates’ death toll up to 18 as two more die

Dozens of underage boys found undergoing ritual

A total of 18 initiates have died during this initiation season
A total of 18 initiates have died during this initiation season
Image: File/Lulamile Feni

The initiate death toll has risen to 18 with two more initiates dying in Libode and Ngqeleni, it was announced yesterday.

The government has pumped millions into efforts to prevent initiation deaths with the help of NGOs like the Man and Boy Foundation (MABF) and traditional leaders.

Most of the deaths were in the OR Tambo municipality, particularly in Western Mpondoland where the majority of boys who died were underage, some as young as 14. They were illegally circumcised.

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs provincial spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam called the deaths a shame on all stakeholders.

He said parents also had to bear the brunt for not playing their role to ensure the safety of their initiates.

“The 17th death happened in the OR Tambo. An 18-year-old initiate identified as Zolani Bontshi of Makhotyana village in Libode died on July 7 at Mthatha Regional Hospital.

“He was admitted the day before,’’ said Ngam.

He said the 18th youth to die was Osa Mbongwana of Maqadini village in Ngqeleni.

“The 17-year-old was circumcised on June 27 and died at Canzibe Hospital in Ngqeleni on July 11 from severe pneumonia and assault.

“He was one of the hundreds of illegal circumcisions, most in Mpondoland,’’ said Ngam.

He said there were 11 initiates in the illegal initiation school where Mbongwana had died.

Thirteen of the initiates died in the OR Tambo district (nine in Libode, three in Ngqeleni and one in Port St Johns).

There were two deaths in Alfred Nzo municipality, two in Buffalo City Metro and one in Chris Hani municipality.

“Despite our efforts as stakeholders, the deaths happened nevertheless. In the OR Tambo most deaths are in Nyandeni,’’ said Ngam.

He listed further wrongs picked up during the winter initiation season, including:

The arrest of a traditional leader and his wife who were allegedly fraudulently issuing fake documents;

Police officers found issuing illegal affidavits to allow under-age boys to undergo the rite;

Notorious traditional surgeon Mtshayina who is on the run in the hills; and

lSome communities hid sick initiates and prevented medical assistance.