ON THE HUNT FOR MACHICKEN

Il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion sur­geon might have fled into the moun­tains to avoid ar­rest

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

Tra­di­tional lead­ers and author­i­ties are on the hunt for a no­to­ri­ous il­le­gal tra­di­tional sur­geon as the num­bers of deaths of ini­ti­ates con­tin­ues to rise in the Eastern Cape.

Mshiyelwa Ndoda, known as Mt­shay­ina, is be­lieved to be on the run af­ter pro­vin­cial ini­ti­a­tion mon­i­tor­ing teams found 63 ini­ti­ates in Mg­wenyane vil­lage in Li­bode, in the east of the prov­ince, who had been cir­cum­cised il­le­gally.

Of those, 61 were aged be­tween nine and 17 years. It is il­le­gal for any child un­der the age of 18 to un­dergo cus­tom­ary male ini­ti­a­tion.

Mg­wenyane vil­lage is not far from Ndoda’s home in Zele vil­lage, Li­bode. Most of the ini­ti­ates who have died this sea­son come from the area.

At least five of the seven, who were con­firmed dead since the start of the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion sea­son two weeks ago, came from Li­bode.

Co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs MEC Fik­ile Xasa said the 63 ini­ti­ates had been taken to a res­cue cen­tre.

Two years ago Ndoda (69), who is an il­le­gal and un­reg­is­tered tra­di­tional sur­geon (in­g­cibi), told City Press that he was un­re­pen­tant about cir­cum­cis­ing young boys be­cause he be­lieved it was bet­ter to do so be­fore they be­come sex­u­ally ac­tive.

Xasa said what he found dis­turb­ing was that the res­cued ini­ti­ates, who had al­ready been cir­cum­cised, did not want to tell any­one, in­clud­ing their par­ents and the vil­lage men, who had per­formed the pro­ce­dure on them.

Xasa said he had no doubt Ndoda was in­volved, but said he was be­ing pro­tected.

“I have been in­formed that Mt­shay­ina, de­spite be­ing an il­le­gal sur­geon, con­tin­ues to op­er­ate. He is cir­cum­cis­ing boys up there in the moun­tains. We are go­ing to dis­cuss this mat­ter. We want to see how we can bet­ter hunt for this man be­cause I am told he is do­ing it in the moun­tains and no­body is able to ac­cess him where he is do­ing this,” Xasa said, adding that he was go­ing to speak to com­mu­nity safety MEC Weziwe Tikana to help find Ndoda, treat­ing the case as a pri­or­ity.

“The com­mu­nity is hid­ing his where­abouts, in­clud­ing par­ents – they are hid­ing it.”

Xasa said he had dis­cussed the mat­ter with the western Pon­doland king Nd­lu­vuyezwe Ndamase un­der whose ju­ris­dic­tion Li­bode falls.

“The king said he has been send­ing mes­sages and try­ing to sum­mon Ndoda but all has been in vain and that, be­cause of the ter­rain, even for him, it is quite dif­fi­cult to ac­cess or even get to Mt­shay­ina and the prac­tice he is do­ing,” Xasa said.

“So we must ap­peal to the po­lice and see what can be done. Every­body has been try­ing to get to his home but peo­ple are hid­ing him. He seems to have a strong net­work of peo­ple who are able to tell when some­body is hunt­ing for him.”

When City Press called Ndoda on Wed­nes­day, a young man who iden­ti­fied him­self as Ndoda’s son, Msawawa, an­swered his cell­phone. Asked where Ndoda was, he said his fa­ther was “some­where in the moun­tain­ous forests” and was “busy with ini­ti­ates”.

“He is not here. He has gone to the ini­ti­a­tion school. He left his phone with me. He is with ini­ti­ates at KwaZiphongo vil­lage, it’s one of the vil­lages around here,” he said.

“There are some boys who are go­ing to be cir­cum­cised to­day so he is taking them to the ini­ti­a­tion school to cir­cum­cise them.”

Asked about Ndoda’s ex­act where­abouts, Msawawa be­come un­easy and dropped the call. When City Press called later the phone rang unan­swered.

Two years ago in an in­ter­view at his home in Zele, Ndoda vowed to con­tinue cir­cum­cis­ing un­der­age boys, say­ing he had even cir­cum­cised his own sons when they were about 10 years old. He said by the time boys reach the govern­ment-pre­scribed age of 18, they are “al­ready sex­u­ally ac­tive” and “may be in­fected with dis­eases”.

Also known as MaChicken, for charg­ing a chicken for his ser­vices, he prides him­self on hav­ing cir­cum­cised thousands of young boys, mostly in western Pon­doland.

Ndoda op­er­ates in an area that in­cludes the towns of Li­bode, Ngqe­leni and Port St Johns, where most il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools are found. But boys from as far as Lusik­isiki and Mbizana come to Ndoda for cir­cum­ci­sion and later re­turn to their vil­lages.

In 2005, af­ter six ini­ti­ates died, Ndoda was con­victed and 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, he boasted of cir­cum­cis­ing seven pris­on­ers with a Minora blade and us­ing prison sheets to dress their wounds.

“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. They did not find any ini­ti­ates with prob­lems,” Ndoda told City Press at the time.

The month af­ter his re­lease, he claimed to have cir­cum­cised 200 boys and a fur­ther 300 the fol­low­ing win­ter.

Ndoda was ar­rested again in early 2016 and in June was ac­quit­ted in the Li­bode Mag­is­trates’ Court be­cause of lack of ev­i­dence. He was ac­cused of cir­cum­cis­ing 84 un­der­age boys, in­clud­ing an 11-year-old.

Xasa said the ma­jor cause of ini­ti­ate deaths was de­hy­dra­tion, be­cause many refuse to drink wa­ter be­cause they are told their wounds will heal faster.

“In fact the pic­ture we are pick­ing up is that even be­fore boys un­dergo ini­ti­a­tion, they prac­tise not drink­ing wa­ter. Some­body some­where is mis­lead­ing them,” he said.

The other ma­jor cause of death, Xasa said, was as­sault.

“Some of these boys are get­ting as­saulted for a rea­son we don’t know,” he said

Xasa said his depart­ment was shocked by the ini­ti­a­tion death rate in Li­bode and said par­ents also needed to be held ac­count­able be­cause they knew what was hap­pen­ing but chose to pro­tect the il­le­gal sur­geons. He said there was no way tra­di­tional lead­ers did not know who the per­pe­tra­tors were.

“This thing is run­ning out of con­trol and we can­not al­low it. When there is law, we want the law to be im­ple­mented and we will do so,” he said.

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