486 die as greedy traditional surgeons run initiate schools ‘like spaza shops’
Close to 490 boys have died in initiation schools in three provinces in the past six years and a further 455 628 were hospitalised because of circumcision-related complications, an investigation has revealed.
These findings are contained in a report, released by the Commission for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities in Joburg today.
The report, titled Public Hearings on Initiation Schools in SA shows that boys as young as 12 died of dehydration, septicaemia, gangrene, kidney failure and assault during initiation.
The investigation focused on three provinces – the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo – where traditional circumcision is an important cultural practice.
The Eastern Cape had the highest number of deaths between 2008 and 2013 – at 401. Mpumalanga followed, with 67 deaths and Limpopo recorded 18 deaths.
Many of the deaths recorded in the Eastern Cape happened in 2009 (91) and last year, when 83 boys died. Mpumalanga also saw a spike during the same years. In 2009, the province recorded 15 deaths and last year the figure shot up to 42.
Commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the probe revealed a number of factors that led to the increase in the number of initiate deaths, but the biggest was the commercialisation of the practice by bogus surgeons.
“Many of the illegal [traditional] surgeons are not trained and have no idea what they are doing,” she said.
“All they care about is money. To them, the practice is like running a spaza shop. They mushroom during the circumcision seasons, make money and go underground after that.”
Mkhwanazi-Xaluva urged the government to develop a national framework that will have norms and standards, which will guide those running initiation schools. She also called for legislation that will criminalise the running of unaccredited initiation schools.
She said this would deter those who think initiation is a business.