‘We are count­ing bod­ies’

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

Cinga Maphet­shane was beaten to death while his friends sang. The 17-year-old died af­ter a sav­age as­sault at an ini­ti­a­tion school out­side Gx­ulu Vil­lage in Li­bode, Eastern Cape. The tra­di­tional nurses al­legedly or­dered his fel­low ini­ti­ates to sing loudly to muf­fle his screams for help.

Cinga died four days be­fore he was to re­turn home to his mother, Nom­bulelo (48), who had not given him per­mis­sion to un­dergo the pas­sage to man­hood.

Over­whelmed by peer pres­sure, the Grade 8 pupil from St Pa­trick’s High School in Mthatha and seven of his friends took them­selves to the le­gal ini­ti­a­tion school on June 21. His fam­ily had no idea he was go­ing to do this – they had planned for him to be cir­cum­cised in De­cem­ber.

Reel­ing in shock, Nom­bulelo still has no idea why her only son was beaten to death. She told City Press that the fam­ily had planned to have a small cer­e­mony to welcome him back home, and a big­ger feast was planned for De­cem­ber.

She only be­came aware of the fact that Cinga had gone to the school af­ter the fam­ily was con­tacted by the in­g­cibi (tra­di­tional sur­geon) two days af­ter her son was cir­cum­cised, when he came to de­mand money.

“I had just ac­cepted that my son had gone to an ini­ti­a­tion school with­out my bless­ing and promised the in­g­cibi that we would make a plan to pay the R600 he was de­mand­ing when he came back home,” On a tour of the Eastern Cape this week, Deputy Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter Obed Bapela spoke about a “loom­ing na­tional cri­sis” fol­low­ing the alarm­ing num­ber of deaths of ini­ti­ates in the province.

By Fri­day, the num­ber of boys who had died around the coun­try dur­ing the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion sea­son had risen to 27. Of those, 22 died in the Eastern Cape, two in Lim­popo, one in Mpumalanga and two in North West.

“Since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, we are los­ing an ini­ti­ate ev­ery day. The of­fi­cial ini­ti­a­tion sea­son was only launched on June 21, but al­ready we have lost so many lives; we are count­ing bod­ies,” Bapela said.

Ac­com­pa­nied by a num­ber of vil­lage chiefs and mon­i­tor­ing teams, in­clud­ing nurses and doc­tors, Bapela vis­ited res­cue cen­tres, hos­pi­tals and am­ab­homa (ini­ti­a­tion schools) in the Eastern Cape’s OR Tambo re­gion, where 14 boys had died, with 145 res­cued and hos­pi­talised.

“Our plan was to have zero deaths, but we are los­ing the bat­tle due to illegal schools mush­room­ing Nom­bulelo said.

Last Sun­day, the in­g­cibi vis­ited again, this time to de­mand R400 to buy tra­di­tional herbs for Cinga, who he said had be­come delu­sional and con­fused while at the ini­ti­a­tion school. The next day, his dead body was brought home.

“We raised the R400 he was ask­ing and gave it to him,” she said through tears. “The next day my son was dead. All I want is an­swers and jus­tice for my son be­cause we have been told that he was beaten to death at the ini­ti­a­tion school. The whole thing about herbs and him be­ing con­fused was just a cover-up.

“The pain I feel in­side is un­ex­plain­able.”

Her re­main­ing child is Cinga’s 25-year-old sis­ter, on whom the fam­ily has now pinned their hopes.

“Cinga was very pas­sion­ate about ed­u­ca­tion. He wanted to be a lawyer or teacher and be­come his own man. He loved peo­ple. He was very hum­ble and such a joy to have as a son be­cause he was very po­lite,” she said.

Cinga’s fa­ther, Or­lando (67), was dis­traught.

“On the day he died, there was this loud noise of singing com­ing from the ini­ti­a­tion school. The ini­ti­ates were singing at the top of their voices, singing joy­ous songs,” he said.

“I later learnt that dur­ing the time they were singing, my son was be­ing beaten and was cry­ing for help. The ini­ti­ates were in­structed to sing loudly so that my son’s cry for help could be drowned by the singing. We thought ev­ery­thing was fine, but to later have him sent to us as a corpse was un­be­liev­able and shock­ing.” ev­ery­where in all the prov­inces,” said Bapela.

In the OR Tambo re­gion, there are 511 le­gal schools, but 144 illegal schools have been dis­cov­ered. Bapela said 250 illegal schools had been closed down in Lim­popo.

“We want to use Cinga Maphet­shane’s case as an ex­am­ple. His is just pure mur­der be­cause he was as­saulted in an ini­ti­a­tion school. We hope that his coini­ti­ates and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity who have in­for­ma­tion can tes­tify as wit­nesses,” he said.

Bapela said more than 200 peo­ple were ar­rested for run­ning illegal ini­ti­a­tion schools in the coun­try.

At the St Barn­abas Hos­pi­tal in Li­bode, where the fa­cil­ity had run out of space and was forced to build a makeshift ib­homa out­side, Bapela heard how one ini­ti­ate res­cued from an illegal ini­ti­a­tion school was ad­mit­ted with his penis “fall­ing off”.

At St Barn­abas Hos­pi­tal, ini­ti­ates as young as 12 had been ad­mit­ted af­ter be­ing res­cued from illegal ini­ti­a­tion schools.

At Holy Cross Hos­pi­tal in Flagstaff, which ad­mit­ted 20 ini­ti­ates, a dis­traught 13-year-old cried for his mother.

“I want to see my mother. Where is my mother? Why has she not come to fetch me?” he cried.

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