The Traditional Leaders Affairs and Health Portfolio Committees have admitted that the death of initiates in the Eastern Cape have reached a crisis stage. They believe that the Male Medical Circumcision (MMC) has contributed immensely to the increase, as young boys that were medically circumcised flock to the traditional initiation schools to be circumcised again.
The committees descended on O.R Tambo district to probe these deaths.
“The problem that we have noticed is that most of the imitates that we have presently – all of them are underage and some of them went to hospital to do for MMC when a boy was about 10 years old. Now that particular boy just want to come to the traditional institution just to learn. Now if you mix the two, obviously it is going to create some problem for traditional leadership.”
Health Portfolio Committee chairperson, Mxolisi Dimaza emphasises the danger that has since been created, allegedly by the Male Medical Circumcision among the communities.
He says boys as young as 12 go for male medical circumcision but are stigmatised and not regarded as real men when they return to society. They then re-register for the traditional initiation methods and some die in the process. Dimaza says the initiation crisis is costing the department of health a lot of money.
“… as a portfolio committee, we are proposing a situation where a committee of health and Cogta and treasurer, and including to that the House of Traditional Leaders, let us go to treasury in the province and demand that there must be a certain fund that is set aside which should be given to the House of traditional leaders.”
Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee chairperson, Mninawa Nyusile says the crisis needs inter-governmental efforts to deal with.
“This crisis is a societal one. It cannot be something that is addressed by us as committee members by government, by traditional leaders, it needs all our communities because we have got families that are headed by young people who do not have direction , all they want is just want to become men without following the right process . The passage of rite does not kill it’s just the process leading towards that and it needs all of our communities.”
With the death toll standing at 16, House of Traditional Leaders Chairperson, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana has called on the Justice Ministry to establish specialized courts to deal with criminal elements on the initiation rite.
“Indeed we have a crisis in the country and clearly there is lawlessness and our country is bordering on anarchy. It’s now time for us to propose that the department of Justice should have specialized courts to deal with these matters. There are many cases that are still outstanding and those cases, they remain pending.”
Meanwhile, a group of young men protested outside an initiation school blocking the two portfolio committee members from entering it. It is believed that inside the illegal initiation school, there were six initiates and some of them underage.
Some dozens of initiates disappeared into the bushes with the assistance of their parents. It’s also alleged that hundreds of underage initiates that have been circumcised by a traditional surgeon only known as Mshayina at Port St Johns.