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The parents of six boys from Dassenhoek who were allegedly circumcised without consent are suing New Start clinic for R3 million in damages.
The clinic, which is managed by Society for Family Health and Thatenda Health Care, is a partnership with the Department of Health. It runs six male circumcision centres in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
In May, the Sunday Tribune reported that parents of 19 boys, aged 11 to 19, from Dassenhoek, near Mariannhill, laid charges against New Start over circumcisions.
Some of the boys experienced post-operative complications, swelling or bleeding of the penis or infected wounds. A case of assault with grievous bodily harm was opened.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed the docket had been taken to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision.
The boys were picked up in groups by a man in a vehicle bearing the New Start logo from April to May.
Victor Makhunga’s 13-year-old son’s foreskin was removed at the Umlazi clinic. Makhunga, 46, had wanted to bury the tissue in the yard next to his son’s umbilical cord for cultural reasons. He is one of six parents claiming R500 000 each.
“New Start must tell the truth, we want the matter to go to court because we want to hear what happened. Too much damage has been done,” said Makhunga.
Busisiwe Ntiga, 29, was at work when her 11-year-son was circumcised. She alleges the KZN Department of Health offered them money for their silence.
“One official told us we can be paid before the matter goes any further. They tried to silence us with money but we refused,” said Ntiga.
The KZN Department of Health has failed to respond.
Attorney Naheem Rehman, for the parents, said: “In terms of the Children’s Act, consent is required by a health practitioner before undertaking any procedure. Circumcision of children under the age of 16 is strictly prohibited unless it is done for medical or religious purposes. Any one who contravenes this law faces a 10-year jail sentence or will be fined.”
He said the Society for Family Health had until this week to respond to the letter of demand or summons would be issued.
Director of the society’s South African branch, Scott Billy, said the organisation had not received the letter and they were not aware of the claim.
However, the Sunday Tribune has seen a copy of a registered letter signed on behalf of New Start clinic acknowledging the letter of demand
“An investigation about the incident at the Umlazi site found that we did nothing wrong. The KZN Department of Health reacted immediately to the reports, conducted an audit and investigation and found that our site had done nothing wrong,” said Billy.
He said the NGO, which gets aid from the South African, US and Dutch governments, as well as the UN, uses the forceps method for circumcision.
The July edition of the KZN Health Bulletin boasted more than 239 000 KZN men had been successfully circumcised since 2010, with not a single death or botched procedure – even though the Sunday Tribune highlighted the case of the Dassenhoek boys.
KZN Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo acknowledged New Start among other NGOs for “assisting with the expansion” of the circumcision programme.
Meanwhile, Wentzell Ngidi, 26, the fast food employee from Umlazi whose entire skin was removed from his penis during a botched circumcision on September 21, is recovering at St Aidan’s Hospital and awaiting plastic surgery.
“I am still in a lot of pain,” said Ngidi this week.
He said he has not seen or heard from Dr S’bu Ndlovu, who performed the circumcision.
The Sunday Tribune tracked Dr Ndlovu down at KwaDabeka Community Health Centre, east of Pinetown, where he was working the late shift.
When asked to explain what happened that day, Ndlovu said: “I really can’t talk about what happened because it’s a subject of an internal investigation.”