Fewer ini­ti­ates die

Eleven boys were re­ported to have died this sea­son com­pared with 26 last year

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

The Eastern Cape has recorded the low­est num­ber of ini­ti­ate deaths in decades this sea­son. As the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion sea­son draws to a close this week, stake­hold­ers cred­ited the new Cus­tom­ary Male Ini­ti­a­tion Prac­tice Act signed into law by Pre­mier Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle in Novem­ber last year for the de­crease.

Mn­i­nawa Nyusile, chair of the co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs port­fo­lio com­mit­tee in the pro­vin­cial leg­is­la­ture, de­scribed this ini­ti­a­tion sea­son as an im­por­tant break­through with the deaths of ini­ti­ates hav­ing been more than halved. Only 11 ini­ti­ates were re­ported to have died this sea­son com­pared with 26 last year.

Nku­l­uleko Nx­esi, di­rec­tor of the non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion (NGO) Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion of SA, which runs a num­ber of in­ter­ven­tion ef­forts aimed at deal­ing with botched tra­di­tional cir­cum­ci­sions, warned against fo­cus­ing on num­bers as that could lead to com­pla­cency next sea­son.

He said with enough re­sources this prob­lem could be elim­i­nated com­pletely. Some of the ini­tia­tives the or­gan­i­sa­tion has in­tro­duced in­clude the es­tab­lish­ment of a camp in Tsolo for un­der­aged boys and those that are vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing kid­napped and taken to il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools.

“We kept 38 boys from ages 12 to 17, mostly from the Nyan­deni area, which also has high num­bers of deaths every win­ter sea­son, through­out the sea­son ... In De­cem­ber, we are tar­get­ing 2 000 boys.

“In the camp, we teach them about how to iden­tify and go to a le­gal ini­ti­a­tion school, life skills, and about HIV and Aids.

“We grouped them as clubs so that when they go back into so­ci­ety they can fight against bul­ly­ing and the kid­nap­ping to il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools. So we think this is one of the crit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions that as­sisted this sea­son,” Nx­esi said.

Pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment spokesper­son Son­wabo Mbananga said an­other mile­stone this sea­son was the in­crease in the num­ber of in­ter­ested par­ties col­lab­o­rat­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in aware­ness cam­paigns. He said chiefs, NGOs, par­ents and law en­force­ment agen­cies worked to­gether in iden­ti­fy­ing il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools and vis­ited le­gal (reg­is­tered) schools to over­see the process and en­sure the ini­ti­ates were be­ing prop­erly cared for.

Nyusile said even the com­mu­ni­ties that they had vis­ited and warned about the dan­gers of il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools noted the im­pact that had been made by the act. He lamented that there were still ar­eas where some tra­di­tional sur­geons were not reg­is­tered and were there­fore il­le­gally cir­cum­cis­ing boys.

He ex­pressed par­tic­u­lar con­cern about Flagstaff – a town in the OR Tambo District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, where a no­to­ri­ous il­le­gal tra­di­tional sur­geon called Lusik­isiki is in jail. An­other il­le­gal sur­geon has taken over on the in­struc­tion of the con­victed man. He was be­lieved to be on the run from po­lice.

In Mbizana, some of the il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools were in­ac­ces­si­ble as they were lo­cated in dense forests, he ex­plained, adding that there were other ar­eas, in­clud­ing Pon­doland, that needed stake­hold­ers to dou­ble their ef­forts.

Nyusile said all law en­force­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity, also needed to come to the party as some po­lice of­fi­cers were not fa­mil­iar with the Cus­tom­ary Male Ini­ti­a­tion Prac­tice Act, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for com­mu­ni­ties to re­port cases of il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion ac­tiv­ity.

Ngan­gomh­laba Matanz­ima, chair­per­son of the Eastern Cape House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, also hailed par­ents for hav­ing heeded the cam­paign.

He said a ma­jor­ity had taken charge of their sons’ tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion process to safe­guard their chil­dren’s lives.

He urged the gov­ern­ment to con­tinue with the cam­paign and ed­u­cate more tra­di­tional lead­ers and chiefs so that they also reach out to their sub­jects.

Matanz­ima said the 19 tra­di­tional nurses and sur­geons that had been ar­rested dur­ing this sea­son’s cam­paign should be tried in court and jailed if con­victed. This would serve as a les­son and a de­ter­rent to those still want­ing to run il­le­gal schools.

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