Blitz on initiation schools

News  Daily Dispatch (East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa). Friday, 20 December 2002.

Ncedo Kumbaca, Thozi ka Manyisana


UMTATA – A fleet of 25 vehicles is to be delivered today to Eastern Cape health officials and traditional leaders – and their first task will be to drive to the Libode area to close down six initiation schools.

The fleet is being hired for a month by the  External link Department of Health at a cost of R260000.

The vehicles will be used by the department and traditional leaders in a campaign to crack down on initiation schools which are operating illegally and causing death and injury to initiates.

At least 45 initiates have died this year, 12 of them during the current December initiation season.

This is the highest annual death toll since the department started recording initiate deaths in 1995.

Department spokesperson Sizwe Khuphelo said they were intervening to combat the deaths.

This shows our seriousness to save the lives of the boys, said Khuphelo.

The initiation schools targeted for closure today are situated in the areas around Libode, Ngqeleni and Port St Johns. They were allegedly operated by a bogus traditional surgeon known as Dosini Guntu, who is based in Umtata.

Guntu is currently out on R500 bail on charges of circumcising boys without a permit.

It is also alleged that Guntu carried out initiation rites under the influence of alcohol.

Khuphelo said that two of Guntu's initiates had died and about 10 of them had been admitted to the Umtata General Hospital.

He said during today's raid more arrests of amkhankatha (traditional nurses) are expected.

So far seven people have been arrested in connection with botched circumcisions this season in contravention of the Application of Health Standards in Traditional Circumcision Act. Six of the seven suspects were arrested on Sunday in Ntabethemba.

Three of them, aged between 24 and 55, face charges of murder and assaulting a 17-year-old initiate from Saaiplaas near Tarkastad.

The other three suspects, including a 65-year-old traditional surgeon, face charges of transgressing the Act.

Khuphelo warned that where officials saw bad conditions or initiation schools operating without permits, they would be closed down.

The Act regulates circumcision and requires that traditional surgeons and nurses have permits to operate and proof of parental consent.

No one is above the law, said Khuphelo.

We have zero tolerance in terms of this law. Anybody who contravenes it will be prosecuted.

Khuphelo appealed to all boys intending to attend an initiation school to follow the rules and also undergo medical tests.He said traditional nurses and surgeons should fill forms together with the boy's family before carrying out the initiation.

The forms are available on the provincial government website at  External link http://www.ecprov.gov.za. -- DDR-ECN

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