‘Ini­ti­ates died from the heat’

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

East­ern Cape par­ents ig­nored ap­peals by govern­ment to sus­pend tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­monies this sum­mer on the grounds of weather ex­perts fore­cast­ing un­bear­ably high tem­per­a­tures, City Press has learnt. Ac­cord­ing to Mn­i­nawa Nyusile, chair of the co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs port­fo­lio com­mit­tee in the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture, the author­i­ties were told by the SA Weather Ser­vice “that the De­cem­ber weather pat­tern in­di­cated it was go­ing to be very hot”.

The in­for­ma­tion from the Weather Ser­vice was re­ceived dur­ing a work­shop in Septem­ber with amakhankatha (tra­di­tional nurses) and in­g­cibi (tra­di­tional sur­geons).

“The weather fore­cast­ers were ad­vis­ing us to go to our com­mu­ni­ties and warn peo­ple not to al­low their chil­dren to go through the ini­ti­a­tion cer­e­mony this sea­son. We called im­bi­zos and pub­lic hear­ings, but our peo­ple dis­agreed with us.

“All the ini­ti­ates who per­ished in the Chris Hani district near Queen­stown died of de­hy­dra­tion. We ad­vised them not to con­tinue with the cer­e­monies, but they did not heed our ad­vice,” said Nyusile.

He at­trib­uted the deaths to the heat, ex­plain­ing that ini­ti­ates in this district were de­prived of drink­ing wa­ter by their tra­di­tional nurses.

One of the early vic­tims of this year’s sum­mer ini­ti­a­tion sea­son was 19-year-old Luph­elo Madela from Port El­iz­a­beth. His death has brought to 17 the num­ber of youths who have died so far this sea­son.

His life­less body was found by his tra­di­tional nurse on Tues­day, ly­ing in a tiny boma a few hun­dred me­tres away from his house.

Madela was a Grade 11 pupil at Nku­l­uleko Sec­ondary School in Uiten­hage. His two older sis­ters said he dreamt of fin­ish­ing his stud­ies and get­ting a good job.

“He is my par­ents’ last-born child and only son. Our other brother was trag­i­cally re­moved from us at the ten­der age of 21,” said his sister, Nokuthula. His aunt, Mon­ica Swartz, said af­ter the nurse found him, she sum­moned his un­cle, Sicelo Tsotsa. Tsotsa told City Press that Madela looked well and happy the day be­fore he died. “We sat for hours hav­ing our nor­mal chat. He was singing, await­ing the day of his home­com­ing,” he said. “I was shat­tered to see him ly­ing, face-down, next to his sleep­ing place, af­ter leav­ing him in such a jovial mood the day be­fore. “I left him af­ter he had cleaned his boma as part of his prepa­ra­tions to re­tire for the night.” Tsotsa said the fam­ily had planned to bring Madela’s body home this week, but his par­ents work out of town and could not ar­rive in time for the burial cer­e­mony, so it was post­poned. Madela’s mother was too dis­traught to speak. She sat in her bed­room and wept. Tsotsa de­nied that Madela’s death was re­lated to the ini­ti­a­tion process, in­sist­ing that “ev­ery­thing in­volv­ing the cus­tom went per­fectly well, and we are thank­ful to the ini­ti­a­tion school for tak­ing great care of him”. Ini­tial re­ports by pro­vin­cial health spokesper­son Sizwe Ku­pelo claimed that Madela died of a sus­pected drug over­dose, which his fam­ily strongly de­nied. Madela had a his­tory of epilepsy, and it is be­lieved that this con­di­tion may have played a part in his death. Nyusile, along with Mx­olisi Dim­baza, head of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on health in the Bhisho leg­is­la­tor, in­spected ini­ti­a­tion schools, hos­pi­tals and res­cue cen­tres in Mbizana and Nyan­deni this week. Nyusile said they dis­cov­ered many il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools in Mbizana’s moun­tain­ous ar­eas which could only be reached on foot or by he­li­copter. “Some of these ini­ti­a­tion schools are hid­den in places where you can­not go by car. We have sug­gested that the de­part­ment of health or­gan­ise a he­li­copter for us so that we can res­cue all those ini­ti­ates,” he said.

Mn­i­nawa Nyusile

Luph­elo Madela

DE­CEASED Ini­ti­ate Luph­elo Madela was found dead in his boma, near Port El­iz­a­beth, this week

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