Initiates pose as they walk on a field in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape December 15, 2013. Every year, thousands of youths leave their parents to spend weeks in the care of traditional leaders at an initiation school where they are circumcised, a rite of passage commonly referred to as "Ukwaluka" or "going to the mountain". Former South African President Mandela, who died on December 5 aged 95, will be buried in his family homestead in Qunu on Sunday after a state funeral. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SOCIETY)

Johannesburg - At least 27 people died through botched circumcision this year, a decrease compared to the 44 who died the previous year, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs said on Tuesday.

“The Ministry for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is saddened by the untimely death of these young men and sends sincere condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. The deputy minister [Obed Bapela, responsible for traditional affairs] indicated that it was unacceptable that initiates should still die even when mechanisms were put in place to address this challenge,” the department said.

“Looking at the causes of death for these young men, the same problems that we warned communities about, such as dehydration, botched circumcision procedure and many others that were major causes of deaths last year, have repeated themselves.”

The initiation season ended over the weekend with five provinces — Gauteng, North West, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo — identified as problematic areas with high prevalence of illegal initiation schools. The highest number of deaths was recorded in the Eastern Cape (18), while Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng recorded two deaths each. Three died in the North West, the department said.

Bapela had visited the provinces this month, and condemned abductions of young boys and initiations by inexperienced and bogus traditional surgeons.

“The random visits also served as part of the department’s crack down on illegal initiations schools. The deputy minister also met with parents whose children were kidnapped and some whose children sadly passed away. He also visited young men who were rescued at health centres and hospitals.”

The department would hold a summit with traditional leaders in November, where all traditional matters, including initiation, would be discussed.

African News Agency