BUSINESS DAY (South Africa), Monday 15 July 2002.

Parents of initiation boys face arrest

Eastern Cape [Province] Health MEC Bevan Goqwana has pledged to have the parents of boys killed or maimed during circumcisions arrested along with negligent traditional surgeons and nurses.

His department would take the lead in laying criminal charges against those responsible for botched circumcisions "if parents fail to act", he said.

Goqwana said, after a visit to candidate initiates at Umtata Hospital with provincial initiation programme co-ordinator Zweliphakamile Dweba, that all those in the hospital had been beaten at initiation schools and were bleeding from open wounds when admitted.

One of the boys will have both legs amputated after he was beaten up, allegedly by his traditional nurse (amakhankatha).

The youngest candidate in the hospital at present is a 12-year-old boy suffering from gangrene and there are at least nine other boys aged 16 and 17 years, while the law states that boys younger than 18 may only be circumcised in exceptional cases.

Goqwana lambasted lax parents for the growing number of deaths and injuries, saying they had to take responsibility for their children.

Laying the blame at the door of parents, he said: "These boys and their parents do not know the law or are ignorant and these boys themselves are afraid to report to their parents on the bad treatment they receive.

"We have taken a decision that the parents of these boys are also going to be arrested, together with the surgeons and nurses," Goqwana promised.

A special ward for initiation candidates was opened at the hospital as the numbers increased daily.

Dweba was also going to hold meetings with police in the area to inform them about the law governing the custom.


(File prepared 14 July 2002)