‘My pe­nis fell off’

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

Af­ter seven days of tor­ture at an il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion school in Lusik­isiki in the Eastern Cape, Khaya’s* pe­nis had to be am­pu­tated.

Three years ago, he and two friends from KwaNyuswa vil­lage were de­prived of wa­ter, as­saulted and tor­tured at the ini­ti­a­tion school, along with 25 other initiates from nearby vil­lages.

One of his friends also had his pe­nis am­pu­tated, while an­other was lucky enough to sur­vive in­tact.

They watched help­lessly as one of their group col­lapsed and died be­fore the rest of them were res­cued by mon­i­tor­ing teams and po­lice.

Khaya blames the ikhankatha (tra­di­tional nurse) re­spon­si­ble for the ib­homa (ini­ti­a­tion school), who was al­legedly con­stantly drunk and al­lowed strangers to touch them and dress their wounds.

“They would dress our wounds so tightly that we could not even move. If you tried to move, the pain was un­bear­able. They would leave us ly­ing there for many hours and re­fused to give us wa­ter. The only thing they would do was beat us with sticks con­tin­u­ously and de­mand that we sing,” he said.

Un­able to stand the ridicule from his fel­low initiates, Khaya left his vil­lage and moved to Dur­ban, where his mother works as a do­mes­tic worker.

“Some of the peo­ple who were initiates with me are now mak­ing jokes about my con­di­tion. They make nasty com­ments. They say that be­cause I have no pe­nis, they can leave their girl­friends with me and I will not do any­thing be­cause I have no man­hood,” he said.

“That re­ally hurts. I was be­ing treated like an out­cast by my own vil­lage and I had to move and start a new life away from them. I then con­vinced my mother that I should stay with her.”

Be­sides his fel­low initiates, only his un­cle knows about his con­di­tion – his mother has no idea. His fam­ily knew noth­ing of his de­ci­sion to at­tend ini­ti­a­tion school as Khaya went on his own.

In a tele­phone in­ter­view, the 24-year-old asked that his iden­tity not be re­vealed. Al­though he has ac­cepted life with­out a pe­nis, he is not ready to let ev­ery­one else know.

Af­ter they were res­cued, Khaya and his fel­low initiates were ad­mit­ted to the Holy Cross Hos­pi­tal in Bizana.

“My pe­nis was rot­ten by the time I ar­rived in hos­pi­tal. It looked like blood had not been cir­cu­lat­ing for a while. One day, when they were re­mov­ing the catheter, my pe­nis fell off. It was heart­break­ing. I just wished I had died just like the ini­ti­ate I saw dy­ing,” he said.

“For a while af­ter that, it was em­bar­rass­ing for me when I needed to uri­nate be­cause I had to sit down like a girl. It was ex­tremely painful.”

Last year, Khaya un­der­went a pe­nis re­con­struc­tion op­er­a­tion at a urol­ogy clinic in Pre­to­ria, which was funded by the non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Foun­da­tion for SA, fol­low­ing an in­ter­ven­tion by a sup­port group for am­putees in Lusik­isiki, which helps men dis­fig­ured dur­ing ini­ti­a­tion.

His pe­nis was par­tially re­con­structed dur­ing a skin graft op­er­a­tion, so now he can at least uri­nate stand­ing up.

“That op­er­a­tion brought a lit­tle sense of dig­nity be­cause it is not like be­fore when there was ab­so­lutely noth­ing,” he said.

Khaya wants to be­come a so­cial worker and help boys who have suf­fered like he has. But since his fa­ther died, he and his three sib­lings sur­vive on his mother’s salary, which he said was less than R1 000 a month.

“I know how dif­fi­cult things can be. There are times you wished you could die. When I went to ini­ti­a­tion school, I wanted to be a man and not come back with a sit­u­a­tion where I can­not even have chil­dren, as is the case right now,” he said.

“You need a lot of coun­selling and sup­port. I am strong now, but it has been a dif­fi­cult few years. With­out the love and sup­port from the Lusik­isiki sup­port group for am­putees and the Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Foun­da­tion, I prob­a­bly would have killed my­self by now.”

* Not his real name

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