Illegal circumcision schools shut down

News  Daily News (Durban, South Africa), Page 7. Friday, 24 June 2005.

Ben Maclennan

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

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said External link 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 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 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.

Kupelo said one initiation candidate 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, however, be no prosecutions as a result of the deaths, 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 the community calls to inform us of the wrongdoers in their areas, he said.

One of the calls had come from External link 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 that his 14-year-old nephew had been taken to an illegal circumcision school in the Bizana area without his parents' permission. - Sapa


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