45 initiates have died in botched circumcisions

News  Daily Dispatch (East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). Thursday, 19 December 2002.

BISHO – A total of 45 initiates have died as a result of circumcision-related practices so far this year.

The death toll is the highest since the  External link Health Department started recording initiates' deaths in 1995.

The department recorded 41 deaths in 1995. This year's fatalities included 33 in the June season and 12 in the present season so far.

At least 68 initiates have been admitted to hospitals around the province during the December/November initiation period.

The Spethu Hospital in Ntabankulu topped the list of admittances, with 35 initiates referred there. Two of these patients are in a critical condition. Another initiate is in a critical condition in the intensive care unit at the Umtata General Hospital.

The police have arrested seven people following the deaths. They have been deemed to be in contravention of the Application to Health Standard Act, which enforces proper initiation processes.

On Sunday police in Ntabethemba arrested six people in connection with murder and contravening the Act.

Three of the six suspects will be charged with the murder and assault of a 17-year-old initiate from Saaiplaas near Tarkastad.

The three suspects – the 65-year-old father of the boy, the boy's 24-year-old brother and a 55-year-old man – will appear in court today.

The remaining three charged with violating the Act include a 65-year-old traditional surgeon.

In Qweqwe, not far from Qunu, a traditional surgeon was arrested for carrying out initiation rites under the influence of alcohol.

The head if the Health Department,  External link Dr Siphiwo Stamper, urged the community to co-operate with health officials and police in reporting circumcision malpractices.

He said the community should participate strongly because they know when things go wrong.

This fights needs the co-operation of the community and we will not conquer without them.

They must be the whistle-blower as they are there ones who see these things.

Stamper emphasised that people should tell the truth about an incident rather than hide the real causes.

Stamper noted that co-ordination among traditional leaders, nurses and surgeons, the community and the department was bearing fruit.

He said it was the community who had a duty to choose the right people to perform the rite. -- ECN

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