HOW CITY PRESS IS HELP­ING TO KEEP INITIATES SAFE

With the start of ini­ti­a­tion sea­son in the Eastern Cape on Fri­day, City Press and its part­ners have launched an on­line tool to help keep initiates safe. Two initiates told Lubabalo Ngcukana how their lives were shat­tered af­ter what was sup­posed to have be

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

Solomzi Bodoza was beaten with sticks and fists, his leg was chopped open with an axe and he was al­most burnt alive. In April six years ago, he was an 18-yearold ini­ti­ate at a fam­ily-run ini­ti­a­tion school in the vil­lage of Mphangana, Li­bode, in the Eastern Cape. Those who tried to kill him were his mother’s brother and three of his cousins, who broke his leg in three places and left it to be­come in­fested with mag­gots. They later tried to kill him, and swore his fel­low initiates to se­crecy so that no one would find out what they had done.

Bodoza’s is a cau­tion­ary tale of what can go wrong at an ini­ti­a­tion school. He doesn’t know if his tra­di­tional sur­geon, or in­g­cibi, was reg­is­tered with the Eastern Cape depart­ment of health.

He be­lieves his or­deal was “petty re­venge” for boy­hood fights. He said that on his third day at the ini­ti­a­tion school, one of his cousins asked him if he re­mem­bered once beat­ing him up when they were lit­tle. That day, his cousins came over with a jug full of dagga.

“I had never smoked be­fore and they forced us to smoke. When I re­fused to smoke, they started to as­sault me with sticks. I fought back. Then all three of them started to beat me up. I then smoked to stop them from as­sault­ing me,” he said.

“Be­cause I was not used to smok­ing, I choked and vom­ited. Then they con­tin­ued to as­sault me. The next day, my un­cle joined them. He came into the ini­ti­a­tion school and also as­saulted me be­cause my cousins had told him that I was not co­op­er­at­ing.”

Bodoza said the ikhankatha (tra­di­tional nurse), who was also his tra­di­tional sur­geon, tried to in­ter­vene, but in vain.

They beat him on the an­kle of his right leg with a stick and, when it swelled up, they used hot wa­ter to re­duce the swelling.

“On the fourth day, the beat­ings con­tin­ued and I tried to fight back. They hit me with an axe on my left leg, break­ing it in three dif­fer­ent places. I begged them to al­low me to go to hos­pi­tal, but they re­fused,” he said. His con­di­tion de­te­ri­o­rated. “I told them my leg was rot­ten. They used a spray meant for horse wounds on me. Ev­ery time they sprayed me, I ex­pe­ri­enced in­cred­i­ble pain. My leg had mag­gots in it,” he said.

A man from the vil­lage vis­ited the ib­homa (ini­ti­a­tion school) and said that Bodoza must be taken to hos­pi­tal, but one of his cousins stood up and said: “The dog must die at once.” He then tried to stran­gle Bodoza. “When that did not work, they put a rope around my neck and tied it to the roof. Below my feet, they made a fire. The rope broke and I fell into the fire, but man­aged to crawl away to the side. They still planned to kill me.”

A week later, when his cousins left the ini­ti­a­tion school to go and buy al­co­hol, his older sis­ter vis­ited him to bring him some fruit.

“I was cov­ered with a blan­ket at the time. My sis­ter thought I was just sleep­ing. But when my fel­low initiates started cry­ing, my sis­ter knew some­thing was wrong. She re­moved the blan­ket and saw the state I was in. She screamed and went out to ask for help. An am­bu­lance was called and I was taken to St Barn­abas Hos­pi­tal in Li­bode. I was un­con­scious for four weeks,” he said.

“When I re­gained con­scious­ness, I was in the high-care unit of the Nel­son Man­dela Aca­demic Hos­pi­tal in Mthatha. I stayed in hos­pi­tal un­til November.” Bodoza’s left leg had been am­pu­tated. “The first thing I did when I re­gained con­scious­ness was try to feel my leg be­cause I knew I had been in­jured. But I could only feel up to above the knee. There was noth­ing below that. The rest of my leg wasn’t there. I didn’t know what to say. I was dev­as­tated.”

In the RDP house that he rents in Li­bode’s Thabo Mbeki Town­ship, Bodoza still dreams of be­com­ing a doc­tor or a teacher and, as the el­dest son, still car­ries the as­pi­ra­tions of his fam­ily. His at­tack­ers are free men. Crim­i­nal charges brought against them were dropped be­cause of a lack of ev­i­dence.

When Bodoza re­turned home from hos­pi­tal, they con­tin­ued to tor­ment him.

“My un­cle was drunk on the Christ­mas day of that same year and said he wanted to fin­ish me off.

“One of my cousins once re­marked, when he saw me bat­tling along in my wheel­chair, that they had done me a favour be­cause now I was get­ting a dis­abil­ity grant – all thanks to them,” he said.

Bodoza said initiates should be care­ful when choos­ing an ini­ti­a­tion school.

“Young boys should not bow to peer pres­sure. They must not go to an ini­ti­a­tion school with­out in­form­ing their fam­i­lies. They must also make sure they go for the manda­tory med­i­cal cir­cum­ci­sion check-up be­fore un­der­tak­ing the rite. And do things prop­erly and not al­low bad things to hap­pen to them,” he said.

PHOTO: LEON SADIKI

HU­MAN RITES Initiates cover them­selves in red and white blan­kets, and their faces are smeared with white clay dur­ing an ini­ti­a­tion rit­ual. More boys are ex­pected to join ini­ti­a­tion schools like this soon, but the Eastern Cape is known for its high num­ber of ini­ti­a­tion-re­lated deaths

PHOTO: LUBABALO NGCUKANA

DIS­ABLED Solomzi Bodoza, who lost his leg af­ter be­ing tor­tured at ini­ti­a­tion school

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