Il­le­gal and un­re­pen­tant

De­spite do­ing jail time for caus­ing harm to count­less ini­ti­ates, ‘MaChicken’ still cir­cum­cises boys as young as 10

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

Mshiyelwa Ndoda is un­apolo­getic about cir­cum­cis­ing boys as young as 10. He be­lieves that by the gov­ern­ment-pre­scribed age of 18, boys are al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive and may “be in­fected with dis­eases”. Oth­er­wise known as MaChicken or Mt­shay­ina, Ndoda (67) is a no­to­ri­ous East­ern Cape tra­di­tional sur­geon (in­g­cibi) and prides him­self on hav­ing cir­cum­cised thou­sands of young boys, mostly in western Pon­doland.

Ndoda, an un­reg­is­tered and il­le­gal in­g­cibi, op­er­ates in an area that in­cludes the towns of Li­bode, Ngqe­leni and Port St John’s, where most il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools can be found. The area has been iden­ti­fied as the epi­cen­tre of ini­ti­ate deaths.

Ndoda is one of what is un­der­stood to be only four il­le­gal in­g­cibi to have been con­victed and jailed in the past 20 years for il­le­gally cir­cum­cis­ing ini­ti­ates.

The name Mt­shay­ina was on the lips of sev­eral lead­ers at the launch of sum­mer ini­ti­a­tion sea­son in Queen­stown last week. Co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs MEC Fik­ile Xasa was one of them.

“In Pon­doland there is a man called Mt­shay­ina. He asks for fowls as pay­ment from ini­ti­ates. He cir­cum­cises un­der­aged boys, that man. There is an­other one called Lusik­isiki in Mbizana. These are the peo­ple we must be vig­i­lant against. If they do some­thing wrong, they must be ar­rested. We will lead cam­paigns to en­sure that these in­di­vid­u­als – once ar­rested – are not re­leased,” he said.

Ndoda has been to jail twice al­ready, but he won’t stop.

“I cir­cum­cise them from 10 years old. Not a sin­gle one goes to hos­pi­tal or dies. I dis­agree strongly with the sug­ges­tion that they should be 18 years old be­cause by then they are al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive and they may have con­tracted a dis­ease or have many in­fec­tions. In fact, by 12 or 13 years old they are al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive,” he says at his home in Zele vil­lage.

“I am try­ing to pro­tect the na­tion from the spread of HIV/Aids be­cause gov­ern­ment says when they are cir­cum­cised there is a lim­ited chance of them be­ing in­fected as a man.”

Mt­shay­ina shows off his equip­ment with grimeen­crusted fin­gers. An as­sort­ment of knives plus tra­di­tional medicines, boil­ing wa­ter and Det­tol to dis­in­fect them. He in­sists he doesn’t use the same knife twice with­out clean­ing it first. He cred­its him­self with in­tro­duc­ing ul­waluko (tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sion) in his vil­lage and sur­rounds be­cause the amaMpondo had aban­doned the prac­tice.

He blames the death rate of ini­ti­ates on abuse and wa­ter de­pri­va­tion by drunk and drug-ad­dled tra­di­tional nurses.

Ndoda in­sists he is a reg­is­tered in­g­cibi, but can­not pro­duce a permit, say­ing po­lice con­fis­cated it. His name is also not on the list of reg­is­tered tra­di­tional sur­geons ob­tained by City Press.

Ndoda says he has been cir­cum­cis­ing ini­ti­ates since 1981, and says he’s mis­un­der­stood and that his ef­forts to re­duce HIV/Aids are un­ap­pre­ci­ated.

“I started as ikhankatha [tra­di­tional nurse]. I was ob­serv­ing an in­g­cibi with whom I had been work­ing for some time and learnt a lot. But it was af­ter I was vis­ited by ancestors in a dream that I be­came an in­g­cibi. When ini­ti­a­tion sea­son comes closer, dreams tell me I must con­tinue with my work. I al­ways dream of cir­cum­cis­ing boys,” he says.

“It’s a skill I am re­ally good at. Since 2002, au­thor­i­ties have been on my back. They ar­rest me and say a boy has died be­cause I cir­cum­cised him, but they re­lease me be­cause of lack of ev­i­dence.”

In 2005, af­ter the death of six ini­ti­ates, Ndoda was given a three-year sus­pended sen­tence. In 2007, po­lice ar­rested him again.

He was sen­tenced again in 2009 and while serv­ing a five-year jail term in Mthatha’s Welling­ton Prison, Ndoda boasts of cir­cum­cis­ing seven pris­on­ers with a Mi­nora blade and us­ing prison sheets to dress them.

“Hardly three days since my re­lease from prison [in Novem­ber 2011], boys came from as far as Qaukeni in Lusik­isiki, Bizana, Flagstaff, Nta­bankulu, Uping­ton and even Jo­han­nes­burg. When mon­i­tor­ing teams ar­rived in De­cem­ber, they found me here at home with a num­ber of ini­ti­ates,” he says. “They did not find any ini­ti­ates with prob­lems.” The month af­ter his re­lease, he cir­cum­cised 200 boys. There were 300 the fol­low­ing win­ter, he boasts.

Ndoda was ar­rested again this year and in June was ac­quit­ted in the Li­bode Mag­is­trates’ Court owing to lack of ev­i­dence. He had been ac­cused of cir­cum­cis­ing 84 un­der­age boys, in­clud­ing an 11-year-old.

Ndoda’s home in the moun­tain­ous Li­bode is dif­fi­cult to reach by car. Bare­foot, Ndoda jokes that po­lice only go there to ar­rest him or de­stroy the dagga – “igolide ya­maMpondo” – that grows in his neigh­bours’ yards.

City Press strug­gled to reach the vil­lage be­cause of a slip­pery road and aban­doned the car, mak­ing the rest of the steep 2km jour­ney on foot. His neigh­bours wor­riedly emerged from their homes to see if the po­lice had ar­rived.

Ndoda got the nick­name MaChicken be­cause he asks for fowls as pay­ment from young boys with no money.

“Those who only have chick­ens, I cut them mer­ci­lessly,” he says.

Oth­er­wise, he charges R150 per boy who is only there for the “cut” and there­after goes to his own ini­ti­a­tion school. Those who stay at his ini­ti­a­tion school (ib­homa) in a ron­davel at his home pay R700.

Ndoda lives with his wife, Noph­elo (36), and four chil­dren in a mud-built cot­tage. When City Press vis­ited last month, he was build­ing an­other struc­ture to house yet more ini­ti­ates.

He says when he was cir­cum­cised, the fee was only R5 and a chicken. As if on cue, chick­ens cluck and scurry around his homestead.

“I am go­ing to ask for my permit from the po­lice in Li­bode who took it away. If they don’t give it back I will do with­out it,” he said.

His el­dest son, Makho­vana, was cir­cum­cised when he was 10 years old. His other two sons, Siphosethu (7) and Phakamisa (9), will be cir­cum­cised next June, with his wife’s bless­ing.

“I can­not stop what I am do­ing be­cause peo­ple want me to con­tinue,” he in­sists.

“I am the only one who can do this thing cor­rectly here. With my dirty hands I re­main the only one with the ca­pa­bil­ity to cir­cum­cise boys.

“If I were to count the num­ber of boys I have cir­cum­cised it would go into thou­sands. You would need more than 20 buses to put them in.”

PHOTO: LUBABALO NGCUKANA

CUT­TING COR­NERS Mshiyelwa ‘Mt­shay­ina’ Ndoda, a no­to­ri­ous il­le­gal tra­di­tional sur­geon based in Li­bode, at home in Zele vil­lage in the East­ern Cape

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