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Chiefs oppose infant ‘snip’

The national medical circumcision plan to circumcise all male babies immediately after birth and in hospitals has been rejected by Eastern Cape traditional leaders.

The outright rejection of the hospital circumcision plan as introduced by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi came while the AmaXhosa, AmaMpondo and other ethnic groups in the province were bracing themselves to send thousands of boys to the mountain to be initiated to manhood during the coming festive season. This includes the December holidays and provides an opportunity for school boys who have reached the age of manhood to undergo the circumcision ritual before they graduate to manhood.

During the official opening of the ulwaluko (initiation) season, Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima criticised Motsoaledi for introducing the hospital plan and especially for infants. “It is wrong to ask boys to go to a hospital and to perform a medical circumcision,” he said. Matanzima, who also boasted of having undergone initiation, said people who went to hospital were those who were sick. “These boys are not sick. Why must they go there?”

About 50000 young boys across the Eastern Cape are expected to go to the bush to undergo the Xhosa rite of passage where circumcision is used to teach the boys morals and values of manhood based on centuries-old traditions and custom. The custom is also believe to instil respect in the young men.

The Ministry of Health said it intended circumcising about 5.7 million baby boys over the next five years to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Last year the Health Department’s circumcision plan saw 100000 boys circumcised in hospitals in all the provinces.