14 initiates die, 141 hurt
PRINCE Xhanti Sigcawu of the amaXhosa Royal House has expressed deep concern following the deaths of 14 initiates in the Eastern Cape.
More than 100 initiates have also ended up in hospital.
The death toll increased from 10 on Friday to 14 yesterday after four young men died in different areas.
“We are very disappointed with what has been happening in initiation schools,” Sigcawu said yesterday.
“The problem that we are faced with is that people who are not fit to look after initiates are taking care of them.
“Some of them are not even qualified surgeons.
“We’re also aware that initiates are sometimes abused and they are afraid to seek help. Some initiates are beaten up.
“It is worrying that we are halfway through (the) circumcision season and there have already been so many deaths reported.”
Most incidents were reported in the OR Tambo District Municipality (Mthatha).
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said a total of 141 initiates were admitted to hospital.
“Our concern is that despite the (health) department making more resources available to deal with this matter, it continues to happen,” Kupelo said.
“The sad thing is that when the initiates are fresh, they run from us and hide in the bushes and come to us when they are in critical condition.
He said some of the incidents were as a result of dehydration and physical abuse, among other reasons.
Sigcawu said deaths at the initiation schools was one of the matters members of the Royal House had been addressing with various kings in the Eastern Cape.
Iinkosi, from the Xhosa Royal House, would be looking at convening a meeting with various stakeholders from the health department and various kings to find ways to deal with the problem, he said.
“We have been using every platform available to us to preach about this ritual. We have explained to parents, men and women, what their responsibilities are and how they can make sure a child comes back from initiation school safe,” said Sigcawu.
Initiates were “part and parcel” of the problem because when they went to illegal schools, they knew what they did was wrong and never reported it, said Sigcawu, adding that the incidents gave the Xhosa tradition a “bad name”.
“It’s very painful to parents because of the thoughts that your child might not come back,” he said.
Mthatha police spokesperson Mzukisi Fatyela said two men, aged 24 and 27, had been arrested at an illegal initiation school. They would appear in court today.
He said boys as young as 16 were being rescued from illegal initiation schools in the area.
“There was an illegal initiation school in Libode with about 86 boys.
“We understand about 36 of them ran away. Most of them did not have the right documents we require,” Fatyela said yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Embo Initiation Council in Cape Town said there had been no incidents reported thus far this season.