FILE - In this photo taken Saturday, June 30, 2013 A Xhosa boy covered with a blanket and smeared with chalky mud sits in a field as he and others undergo traditional Xhosa male circumcision ceremonies into manhood near the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa. At least 60 males have died at initiation schools in eastern South Africa since the start of the initiation season in May, health officials confirmed. Thirty of them died in the Eastern Cape in the last six weeks, and 300 others were hospitalized with injuries. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam, File)

Durban - A two-day educational workshop which was intended to educate and guide communities in the Eastern Cape about the dangers of male circumcision season last month has not reaped the desired results. This is according to the Ministry of Traditional Affairs spokesman, Sifiso Ngcobo.

The number of boys who have died thus far during this year’s circumcision initiation season has risen to 29. Twenty-four from the Eastern Cape, four in Mpumalanga and one from the Western Cape said Ngcobo.

The cause of the deaths, he said, was due to “illegal schools” who were secretly conducting the circumcisions without permission from the Department of Health.

“These illegal schools are actually traditional leaders who are conducting circumcisions without any permission or guidance from the Department of Health and emergency services. These people are setting up their own schools and not making any provisions in case of emergencies.”

Ngcobo warned that the illegal initiators, if caught and depending on the nature of the person’s injuries, could be charged with murder or culpable homicide.

“The number of deaths has declined drastically from this time last year, but this is still too high. This is a serious national issue. The aim of our department is to bring this number down to zero. There should be no fatalities while we still maintain the culture of circumcision. The loss of a single life will not be tolerated.” said Ngcobo.

The deputy minister of Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela would be visiting the Eastern Cape on Wednesday and he, together with the Eastern Cape premier, will assess the areas which have recorded a high number of deaths. The department also reported last Thursday that 104 boys were admitted for dehydration, septic circumcision, gangrene and other related injuries.

Ngcobo said special policing task teams had been set up throughout the country to crack down and shut all illegal schools. He stated that three operators in Mpumalanga had already been arrested.

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