Five people accused of circumcising a 45-year-old family member by force appeared in the Khayelitsha magistrate's court this week.

They were arrested on January 2, seven days after Nceba Cekiso from Site B was "caught" and circumcised against his will.

The five, who face assault charges, include his wife Nosakhumzi Cekiso, his sister Sindiswa Cekiso, neighbour Monwabisi Ndlebe and relatives Mcebisi Majeke and Thami Neke.

They were not asked to plead and their case was postponed until April 13 to allow them to obtain legal aid.

It is alleged that the five noticed that Nceba Cekiso was still a "boy" during a mojiso of another initiate on Christmas Day and his family decided that he be "caught".

Xhosa culture allows people to forcibly circumcise boys deemed to have passed the age of initiation or who have bad habits, as a way of

rehabilitation.

In this instance the ritual was half done; Cekiso was circumcised but was removed by the police on his seventh day in the bush and taken to hospital, preventing other initiation processes. In such cases men can still be regarded as umkhwetha (initiates).

Forcing people do undergo the ancient ritual, which marks the transition from boyhood to manhood has, in recent times, caused concern among human rights organisations.

Cases of forced initiation have been reported to the police and in one instance two Rastafarians objected to the procedure on religious grounds.

The incident has sparked a debate on whether or not traditionalists should still be allowed to force people against their will into the bush to undergo initiation.

Mwelo Nonkonyana of the Congress of National Traditional Leaders of South Africa, who is also an advocate, said both parties had acted within their rights and it was up to the court "to weigh which right overrides the other".

Nonkonyana said traditional leaders were fighting to change the "Westernised" constitution to consider traditional values. Submissions had been made to the Constitution Review Committee and the issue was being considered.