r Luvuyo Bayeni (33) dreads the middle of June. Not because it’s cold or the days are short, but because it’s the start of the winter initiation season. He has dedicated his life to saving the lives of the young victims of botched circumcisions. For Bayeni – senior manager of circumcision in the Eastern Cape since last year – providing professional and safe circumcisions is not just a job, it’s a calling.
He has been treating boys in hospitals and rescue centres in Lusikisiki, Mthatha, Qumbu, Mount Frere and East London since 2010.
“It’s painful to see some of the boys lose their manhood during botched circumcisions. It’s a very traumatic experience [for the boys],” he said.
“I wish our people, especially parents and society at large, can take a keen interest in this matter because our young men are dying in the bush for no reason.
“Parents need to take charge of the situation and educate their children about the dangers of illegal circumcisions. Young people, some only 13, are being circumcised by people who have no training to perform such procedures. This is barbaric and society should not tolerate such an unnecessary loss of life.”
Bayeni, whose job is to monitor and coordinate rescue operations, said he still got his hands dirty.
Last year, during the summer initiation season, he had to work around the clock, hopping from one hospital to the next, as staff were overstretched and urgent intervention was needed.
“Once, when I was at Mthatha General for a support visit, I had to get my hands dirty and work as there were too many initiates needing attention.
“Three days before, I had been at Palmerton in Lusikisiki working in a rescue centre where initiates were kept, treating them. I had to do the same in other hospitals around the province,” he added. He said treating initiates needed special care and time. Social support was also needed for boys affected by illegal circumcisions, especially those who had their penises amputated because of complications.
“We need to counsel these boys while they are in hospitals or at the centres and continue the support beyond the initiation season because we end up losing them. Some are suicidal, others drop out of school and lose hope. They need the support of society because this is a societal problem,” said Bayeni.
He said one of his saddest memories was of treating four boys with gangrene at Mthatha General Hospital in December. “As I rolled up my sleeves to attend to them, a shy, shaky voice asked me ‘Gqirha [doctor], will I be fine?’ and you know that your professional opinion is not what he wants to hear.”
The married father of three, among them two boys aged six and 11, said he wanted his sons to go through the sacred rite of passage to manhood, but in a proper
BOYS TO MEN
A group of initiates, covered in red-and-white blankets, during an initiation ritual