Tool to end the death of initiates
On these pages we bring you the tragic stories of two young men from the Eastern Cape who were maimed for life after undergoing traditional circumcision.
Solomzi Bodoza had to have his leg amputated after he was severely beaten and almost burnt alive at a family-run initiation school. The other, whom we call Khaya because not even his mother knows what happened to him, was so badly abused and neglected at an initiation school that his penis rotted and fell off.
Last year, 75 young men lost their lives, 20 had their penises amputated and 687 were hospitalised – mostly owing to unregistered or bogus traditional surgeons and nurses. So far this year, 18 young men have died, four had their penises amputated and 293 were sent to hospital.
The figures over the past 10 years show how enormous the problem is: 646 young men have lost their lives and 259 have lost their manhood.
The Eastern Cape government launched the province’s summer initiation season in Queenstown on Friday, and the situation could become worse – if we let it.
This week, City Press – in partnership with Code for Africa, Open Data Durban and Daily Sun – launches an online tool for parents and initiates to use to check whether the traditional surgeons they have chosen have been registered and trained by the Eastern Cape department of health. City Press gathered the data of all registered traditional surgeons and nurses in all the province’s districts. However, widespread noncompliance with the registration requirements means that there are only 200 names or so on the database. There are many more times that number of ingcibi operating in the province, with mixed results.
City Press’ tool can also be used to report illegal traditional surgeons and initiation schools, as well as to report initiates experiencing difficulties. The tool will be expanded in future to include registered traditional surgeons in other provinces.
It is up to provincial authorities to work together with the house of traditional leaders and the amakhosi to ensure that those presiding over initiation schools are skilled enough to perform their important work.
Tales of horror such as those on our pages detract from the spiritual nature of the rite of passage Xhosa boys go through to become men. We can no longer allow mourning to replace what should be a celebration of our culture.