They wanted us to eat his heart

News  South African Press Association (Johannesburg). Wednesday, 26 June 2002.

Circumcision Hell, 5 dead, 18 live to tell the tale

A group of boys initiated at Ratanda on the East Rand were expecting a fun break when they left for a traditional Sotho initiation school. It turned out to be a nightmare.

Our friends told us it's nice there and that you play soccer, Leonard Mkhwanazi, 15, said at Heidelberg hospital on Wednesday where he is being treated for a botched circumcision.

A fellow initiate, Sipho Mhkwanazi, 17, said: I feel so bad because one of my dreams died. Eight people took turns in hitting him (one of the dead initiates) 50 times each. The other boys beat him as well.

The group of boys spoke to Sapa on Wednesday after being discharged from hospital. They were among the more than 50 initiates saved by the police after five died during a traditional ceremony this week.

'I feel so bad because one of my dreams died'

Johannes Makhoba, 15, said if the police had not arrived the initiates would have been forced to eat the dead teen's heart.

They wanted us to eat his heart because he ran away but then one teacher informed the police that a boy had died.

Asked whether the boys did not consider running away, he said :If we tried to get out, they would have killed us.

Makhoba said the teachers told them to tell their friends after the seven weeks of initiation that it was pleasant at the camp.

But when you go there everything changes. You don't see the things that you expected to see.

'They wanted us to eat his heart because he ran away'

East Rand police spokesperson Anneline Prinsloo said the results of the post-mortems of the five boys had implicated teachers from the initiation schools in their deaths.

The five teachers had been arrested and would be charged in the Heidelberg Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

The  External link SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) welcomed the arrests and called on traditional leaders, healers and the government to organise an indaba at which a legal framework should be developed to monitor the tradition which symbolically turns boys into men.

The organisation said the ceremonies breached the rights to human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, freedom of movement and residence, health care, food, water, social security, and education.

 External link The Democratic Alliance said it was appalled by the latest deaths resulting from botched circumcisions. This is a purely criminal matter and charges should be laid against those who so opportunistically pervert traditional customs into cruelty to others, a DA statement said.

The  External link New National Party also called for legislation to monitor the functioning of initiation schools.

It is very important to use the right technique and adequate hygiene otherwise the boys will die of excessive bleeding, infection or will even be infected by the HI virus, the NNP said.

The first boy was found in the mountainous Ratanda area on Monday evening. He died on his way to hospital. On Tuesday morning, local residents informed the police about four more bodies in the area.

A police helicopter collected the bodies and it was established that more boys who participated in the ceremony had gone missing. They later found about 50 boys hiding in the area.

The group of Sotho boys were from Orange Farm, near Vereeniging, and had been in Ratanda since the beginning ofJune.


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