2 die of botched circumcisions

News  South African Press Association. Thursday, 23 June 2005.

Cape Town - Two would-be-initiates have died in the Eastern Cape since the start of the winter circumcision season, the External link provincial health department said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said department officials and police, working with traditional leaders, had raided and shut down several illegal initiation schools, arrested two traditional nurses and a surgeon, and were hunting down other surgeons who had circumcised boys illegally.

When they raided an illegal school at Mgwenyane village in the Libode area on Wednesday, they had arrived while circumcisions were being carried out on a group of 29 youths.

We witnessed a terrible thing. The man was circumcising these boys using one blade, he said. This illustrates the reason why the department has had to intervene in traditional circumcisions. What it means is that if the first boy out of the 29 is HIV-positive, the rest of the boys have probably been infected with the virus.

He said only five circumcisions had been carried out by the time the authorities arrived.

The surgeon had been taken into custody by the Libode police and was to appear in court on Thursday.

Kupelo said one boy died at the weekend of septicaemia at Engcobo near Umtata, and another, from Sada near Queenstown, died as a result of dehydration on Monday.

He said there would be no prosecutions as both boys had been attending legal schools. The Engcobo boy had been in the care of his parents when he died, and the Sada boy had been in hospital.

Under the province's law on traditional circumcision, schools must be registered with the department, parental permission must be obtained, and surgeons must follow particular procedures.

Kupelo said members of the public at Mdantsane had since Monday handed over to police three bogus surgeons who had been circumcising under-age boys in the area.

What is encouraging this year is that the community call us and inform us of the wrongdoers in their area, he said.

One of the calls had come from health MEC Monwabisi Goqwana's home village Cingo in the Tsolo area, where in a raid on Tuesday night authorities rescued 11 boys and arrested a traditional nurse.

An enraged Eastern Cape businessman, Justice Zotwa, said on Thursday that his 14-year-old nephew Sixolile had been taken to an illegal circumcision school in the Bizana area without his parents' permission.

Sixolile disappeared last week before writing his final grade five mid-year exam at school in Flagstaff, and after searching for days his family reported him missing to the police.

This week, however, the family found out he had been circumcised.

There was no permission that was asked from us, Zotwa said. The boy was very young and it was a very unacceptable thing which was done.

I feel bad, I feel angry. It's actually frightening, and it's threatening the lives of our children. Somebody comes and takes your son without knowing,without your permission.


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