10 die in botched circumcisions, 32 fight for lives

DAILY DISPATCH, East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, 13 December 2005.

10 die in botched circumcisions, 32 fight for lives

BY LULAMILE FENI

TEN initiates have already died of botched circumcision since the beginning of the summer season and another 32 are fighting for their lives at Eastern Cape hospitals.

Last week the police had to exhume the body of a 17-year-old youth from Sterkspruit, buried inside his initiation hut. They had not been notified of his death.

Drakensberg area spokesperson Captain Ursula Roelofse said the initiate was allegedly buried by some men from Tyinindini village near Matsoeseng in Sterkspruit.

"According to the information, the burial was done according to the culture of the people (Basotho and amaHlubi) of the area," Roelofse said.

"According to their culture a dead initiate is buried at the initiation school soon after his death. Although we are not undermining anyone's culture, people should remember that as police we have an obligation to investigate any ... death. People cannot bury people left and right as they please."

Roelofse said an inquest docket has been opened and the cause of death has not been established.

Health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said of the 10 who had died, one was from Port St Johns, two from Mthatha, one from Ngqeleni, one from Dutywa, one from Bizana, two from Mdantsane and two from Sterkspruit.

"This is the first time that an initiate has died at Dutywa," Kupelo said.

"Dutywa, Keiskammahoek and Peddie are some of the places said to be safe and had had a history of no initiation injuries."

He said the 32 initiates had been admitted in hospitals for gangrene and dehydration. Seven of these are from Mdantsane and the Transkei.

Kupelo said botched circumcisions cost the provincial government over R10 million a year.

Kupelo said last weekend his department closed down five initiation schools, rescued 122 initiates and arrested eight people for running illegal initiation schools in the Transkei.

He said the initiates had been circumcised without their parents' knowledge.

Midway through the 2005 summer season the death toll almost equals that of last summer when 12 initiates died.


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