Keep­ing tra­di­tion alive

CityPress - - News -

In­fec­tion was an­other key cause, and the fact that many refuse an­tibi­otics be­cause they don’t want to seem less manly doesn’t help.

“When we in­ter­vene it is not be­cause we want to change the tra­di­tion or west­ern­ise it. Our ul­ti­mate goal is to make sure we save lives,” he said.

“My own boys will un­dergo the tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion like I did, de­spite the fact that I am a doc­tor. I love this tra­di­tion too. I was raised to re­spect it. It is my cul­ture. But I want to en­sure that it is safe, not only for them but for other chil­dren too.”

On his visit to the ini­ti­a­tion school in KwaSit­wayi on Fri­day, he found 43 ini­ti­ates in good con­di­tion.

The school’s tra­di­tional sur­geon, Qaqam­bile Siy­ong­wana (42), has been prac­tis­ing as in­g­cibi for seven years. No one has died on his watch, he said.

“The se­cret to suc­cess is to value life and to take care of the boys as if they are your own, and al­low med­i­cal doc­tors to in­ter­vene when the need arises,” Siy­ong­wana said.

At an­other ini­ti­a­tion school in Qokol­weni, also in Mthatha, 102 ini­ti­ates were un­der the care of 85year-old in­g­cibi Jonga Mkhe­felele and other tra­di­tional nurses [amakhankatha].

There, Mn­ton­intshi treated four ini­ti­ates with mi­nor com­pli­ca­tions who did not need to be sent to hos­pi­tal.

Tra­di­tional sur­geons, Mn­ton­intshi said, know only how to cir­cum­cise and are not trained to deal with com­pli­ca­tions, and as doc­tors they are try­ing to close that gap. He wants to pro­tect the dig­nity of the prac­tice.

“We want the tra­di­tion to con­tinue, while we take care of the prob­lems that come along,” he said.

Doc­tors are es­sen­tial to some ini­ti­ates suf­fer­ing from chronic con­di­tions – such as HIV and epilep­tic and heart con­di­tions – that need to be mon­i­tored.

They are also teach­ing ini­ti­ates that tak­ing their med­i­ca­tion does not make them worth­less men, as many be­lieve.

“We want to bring in­ter­ven­tion here at the schools so we do away with the in­flux to hos­pi­tals when these boys al­ready have ma­jor com­pli­ca­tions and are at death’s door. This is the whole point of gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion – to as­sist as early as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Over the years, Mn­ton­intshi has seen some grue­some cases at ini­ti­a­tion schools where ini­ti­ates’ wounds were too tightly dressed, lead­ing them to de­velop gan­grene and re­quire am­pu­ta­tions.

“If you dress the part where there is a wound too tightly, it dies and falls off,” he said.

“Some boys can bleed to death if there is no doc­tor to pro­vide med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion. Sadly, this has hap­pened many times in the past.”

PHOTO: DEN­VOR DE WEE

ON THE BRINK OF MAN­HOOD

Ini­ti­ates gather in Mthatha to un­dergo cir­cum­ci­sion

PHOTO: DEN­VOR DE WEE

Doc­tor Xolani Mn­ton­intshi (right) is ded­i­cated to sav­ing ini­ti­ates’ lives with the help of a gov­ern­ment-led project to deal with com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to cir­cum­ci­sion rites in and around Mthatha

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