Local Government and Traditional Affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane ended his visit to circumcision schools in the Nyandeni local municipality area with a heavy heart, following his exposure to the poor condition of some young initiates in the bush.
The MEC’s visit was sparked by the increasing number of deaths of initiates and the growing commercialisation of circumcision by some bogus traditional surgeons.
Speaking during one of the interactions with the Amampondo aseNyandeni, King Ndamase Ndamase, local traditional leaders, representatives of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders and members of the provincial Traditional Circumcision Forum (TCF), Qoboshiyane said that government, traditional leaders and communities should work harder to curb the illegal practices linked to circumcision.
“We need to make sure that young boys, of 20 to 30-something years of age, are not allowed to practise as traditional circumcision surgeons because they lack the experience, reputation, skill and compassion needed in ushering young boys into manhood.
“I am concerned that the real and reputable ingcibi (traditional surgeon) who have done this for many years, seem to be scarce, with these upstarts of ingcibi mushrooming and masquerading as the real surgeons,” Qoboshiyane said.
Qoboshiyane visited circumcision schools in Flagstaff, Lusikisiki, Ngqeleni and initiates who had been admitted to hospitals for urgent medical attention.
“I was perturbed by a report I received in the Lusikisiki and Flagstaff area, that one surgeon is charging young boys R1600 to circumcise them. He had at least 61 boys in his school. It is wrong for this man or anyone to commercialise part of our tradition. We cannot accept this because in such cases, as we have seen here, the lives of our young boys are put at risk, as the surgeons rush to make money,” he said.
Qoboshiyane visited Ncanzibe, Holy Cross and Nelson Mandela Academic hospitals.
“When I spoke to these young men, they told me that they were beaten up by some young man while they were in the circumcision school. Some of the graphic details of genital mutilation of some of the initiates are too sensitive to divulge. It was clear also that many parents in the Ngqeleni area were not part of the circumcision of their children and this is wrong, because parents have a responsibility towards their children,” added Qoboshiyane.
However, in the Flagstaff and Lusikisiki areas, at least 1300 young boys enrolled in the traditional circumcision school. Out of those, only one died – the cause of death unrelated to circumcision. At least 602 traditional circumcision schools in the OR Tambo district were illegal, while 74 were legal. At least 47 initiates had been admitted to district hospitals, with five deaths recorded.
The MEC said the government was committed to work with traditional leaders, all provincial departments, municipalities, schools, churches and parents.
“Though we regret the death of few initiates at this stage of the circumcision season, we are happy that the hard work of social partners in the Flagstaff and Lusikisiki area ensures that correct procedures are followed in circumcising our young boys.”