My son trusted these people with his life

News  Star (Gauteng). Monday, 10 July 2006.

Poloko Tau

Circumcision school teachers allegedly murder young circumcision candidate

Siyabonga Radebe wanted to become a real man but now he is dead, allegedly at the hands of the people who were supposed to turn him into one.

On Saturday, West Rand police, acting on a tip-off, found the bodies of 14-year-old Radebe and 18-year-old Sello Ntsie at an initiation site in Zuurbekom, near Westonaria. They arrested six men, who where apparently instructors.

Radebe's mother Anna on Sunday told how she had tried in vain to persuade her son not to go to an initiation school, but he would not listen. He was determined to go because he didn't want to be teased. But according to other initiates their initiation turned into a nightmare of beatings and burnings.

We were ordered to put blankets over them

One of them, Lehlohonolo Ramagaga, 14, on Sunday night trembled as he described having to sleep in a grass hut the size of a dog kennel. Ramagaga was taken to hospital on Saturday after his parents saw the wounds he had received after being beaten and burnt.

But what happened last Wednesday night will forever occupy his mind. This was when the six teachers, who are now suspects, allegedly killed Radebe and Ntsie.

He (the 19-year-old main suspect) arrived while we were sitting by the fire, and without a word he kicked a burning tyre onto Siyabonga's legs and ordered him to stand up. He then poured some water over his wounds, Ramagaga said.

He then took a wooden pick handle and hit him hard on the head and continued to kick him after he fell down.

Ramagaga said they sat helplessly as the beatings continued. Ntsie was also hit with a thick wooden handle. The two boys were bleeding and lying motionless on the ground. We were ordered to put blankets over them.

I had no choice but to accept that he wanted to do it

We tried to wake them up but you could see they were not going to make it. Siyabonga whispered a couple of things about his grandmother and asked for his mother to forgive her. He couldn't move his lips anymore and that was when I realised he was gone.

Though she was against her son going to the circumcision school, Radebe's mother forked out the R700 demanded by the teachers just to make him happy. A sheep was also bought and traditional beer made for his welcoming ceremony which was supposed to have taken place on Sunday.

I had no choice but to accept that he wanted to do it. I had made peace with it and prayed every day that he would come home safely, Anna Radebe said.

She waited with other parents for the initiates to come back, but only five of the seven arrived. Their faces were covered. So I looked at the feet and realised that my son was not there. I have been having a bad feeling about it and then asked them to tell me the truth, she said.

My son has been killed by the people that he had trusted with his life. They were supposed to teach him, but instead they became monsters over these vulnerable children. Did they really have to kill him?

Police Sergeant Solomon Sibiya said a case of murder was being investigated and the suspects would appear in court soon.

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