Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has called for urgent intervention to halt the “annual mutilation and death” of young men undergoing traditional circumcision.
Tutu said health and culture authorities needed to work together to protect traditional practices while avoiding “what some in Pondoland describe as ‘male genital mutilation’”.
“My plea is for all stakeholders - and, in particular, the House of Traditional Leaders and the Department of Health - to draw on the skills of qualified medical practitioners to enhance our traditional circumcision practices,” he said on Tuesday.
A total 38 young men died during the end-of-year initiation period in Pondoland, which ends this week.
John Carpay, who started the www.ulwaluko.co.za website to provide information about the “dark secrets” of the ritual, said the seasonal deaths and mutilations had become predictable.
The boys’ deaths ”in abominable conditions” were “totally avoidable”.
“Why do we sustain a ritual that slaughters boys in the prime of their age, and physically and mentally scars many others for life,” Carpay asked.
While the Eastern Cape Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs has called for a meeting with Mpondo chiefs over the matter, its KwaZulu-Natal counterpart was celebrating a successful initiation ceremony on Tuesday.
Lenox Mabaso, spokesman for the department in KwaZulu-Natal, said that, as the country reeled from the deaths of young men who had become victims of traditional circumcisions that went wrong in Mpumalanga, KZN had managed a successful ceremony.
The spokesman for the Eastern Cape Department of Health and the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, said yesterday the two bodies had received proposals from various people promising a solution to halt the deaths of initiates in Pondoland.
Sicwetsha said families were ultimately responsible for the initiation of their sons, but the House of Traditional Leaders had distributed material about the initiation preparation.
“We think this is sufficient… The province harbours no ambitions to instruct people what type of initiation they should undergo or take their children through,” he said.