traditional leaders, police, nurses and a doctor, City Press witnessed how some of the initiation schools still flouted basic rules such as not giving initiates drinking water.
In all the three initiation schools visited by the team on Wednesday at Godini village, initiates had not had a single drop of water for days.
This was despite an awareness campaign that was put in place to educate traditional surgeons about the dangers of the practice, which often leads to dehydration and death. It is common practice among those who run initiation schools to prevent initiates from drinking water because they believe that doing so helps the initiates heal faster.
At one initiation school, an 18-year-old initiate had not had water for 11 days. Taking care of him were boys aged 16 and 17, who claimed to have been circumcised last December. The person responsible for the three initiation schools, who is known as Nkwenkwe, was found to be practising illegally and is on the police’s wanted list.
Professional nurses and the doctor treated some of the initiates for minor infections on site.
Fikile Xasa, the MEC of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, said the recent fatal incident at a Qumbu initiation school had embarrassed the province.
“We have arrested a number of these so-called traditional surgeons. For now, we are battling with enforcing the law and learning some lessons,” he said.
He said a number of traditional leaders were now seeking advice on how to deal with illegal initiation schools and the issue of the circumcision of boys who are younger than 18, which is against the law.
Xasa said some of the young boys fraudulently used the identity documents of their older brothers to go to initiation schools.
“I would not say they are dying because of that, but if you go to Pondoland, young boys of 10, 13 and 14 are getting circumcised.”
He said he grew up respecting and even fearing the initiation process, and was surprised that underage boys were succumbing to peer pressure and impatience to get circumcised despite the danger.