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King calls for halt in initiate deaths

Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu has appealed to traditional leaders to work together with their respective municipal councillors in a bid to curb the “unnecessary” deaths of initiates during the December holidays.

The king said it was the duty of traditional leaders to show leadership when there was something amiss in their territories.

“To me it is not a good thing to read about the deaths of initiates, hence I am saying that traditional leaders must show their leadership in this important custom of our forefathers,” said Sigcawu.

Two initiates were reported dead in Matatiele and Bizana earlier this month.

The latest umkhwetha (initiate) to die was from Holela village, Centane, last Thursday.

Police spokesperson Capt Jackson Manatha said: “It is alleged that the deceased was from a nearby village.

“Elderly men observed that he was ill and weak. A car was organised to take him to Butterworth hospital but he died on the way. An inquest docket has been opened.”

Sigcawu urged traditional leaders, as custodians of tribal customs, to be at the forefront of stopping the death of initiates.

The provincial government earlier this year set aside R14.3m for efforts to stop the death of initiates.

A total of 25 initiates in the province died in June from genital amputations while 21 died in December last year.

MEC for local government and traditional affairs Mlibo Qoboshiyane in July said: “It was shocking to learn of the increasing commercialisation of traditional circumcision in some communities, with one ingcibi (traditional surgeon) charging R1600 to circumcise one boy.

“In this case, he had at least 61 initiates in his schools,” said Qoboshiyane.