Another three die in initiation schools

News  Independent Online News. Thursday, 29 June 2006.

The toll in the Eastern Cape's winter circumcision season has risen to 11 with news of the deaths of another three boys.

The latest victim died a few hours ago at an initiation school at Qweqwe village outside Mthatha, provincial health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said on Thursday morning.

We suspect that it's because of a complication from a botched circumcision.

Denied food

He also said rescuers had found a would-be initiate dead when they discovered him and 21 other boys hidden in Pondoland's mountainous Ntabankulu region.

The 17-year-old, who had not yet been circumcised, had apparently died of starvation, he said.

The boys had been kept in the mountains for more than three weeks and were denied food. The survivors were taken to hospital suffering from starvation.

They look like skeletons, he said.

Kupelo said the health department would recommend a postmortem on the dead boy, and that a case of murder be opened.

They look like skeletons

He said it was believed another 149 initiates and would-be initiates are still hidden in the region.

The health department received a tip-off and spent the whole of Wednesday night searching for the boys, said Kupelo.

The area (where they are hidden) is very hard to reach and we might have to send helicopters.

He said the bogus traditional healer responsible was expected to be arrested on Thursday.

We don't understand why a human being can do something like this. This is against the custom, it is contradicting custom, said Kupelo.

Parents would be encouraged to lay charges against those responsible.

We cannot allow our children to be killed by opportunistic individuals in the name of custom... they are making the custom a laughing stock.

It was reported earlier in the week that one initiate had been taken to hospital in East London in a critical condition with gangrene of his genitals.

Police in the province are investigating charges of assault, running illegal initiation schools and illegally conducting circumcisions.

Five illegal surgeons are facing criminal charges, and police are searching in the Transkei for at least another four.

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