THE CAPE ARGUS, Capetown, South Africa, Saturday, 30 December 2006.

South Africa: Matric Success Followed By 'Mysterious' Initiation Death

Myolisi Gophe
Cape Town

Instead of celebrating as their son's successful matric marks were published this week, a Gugulethu family was mourning him after he died during an initiation ceremony.

Lunga Nocanda, 18, who matriculated from Hermanus High School, died "under mysterious circumstances" at an initiation school in Paarl on December 18 - the only known casualty of a botched circumcision ritual in the Western Cape this season.

Another initiate was admitted to the GF Jooste Hospital with a septic wound, but was treated and discharged the following day, according to a sister at the hospital.

After years of problems, the number of botched initiations throughout South Africa dropped dramatically this year, including in Cape Town.

Last year one person died in Cape Town and 10 more were admitted to hospitals.

Cultural groups believe the decrease can be attributed to awareness campaigns by themselves and the Department of Sport and Cultural Affairs.

Public hearings have been held around the Metro to seek solutions to the problem and the government is in the process of setting up an Initiation Unit, so the rituals can be better controlled.

Mandla Yeki, spokesman for the Department of Sport and Cultural Affairs, said lack of training, poor discipline, drug and alcohol abuse by traditional nurses had been raised at the hearings and the new unit would look into ways of providing proper training.

He hoped the unit would be established before the winter initiation season, which begins in May.

But it comes too late to save Lunga, who was planning to study business management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

His cousin Thandi Nocanda said the family was upset because they did not believe the initiation school was telling them the truth.

"They said he had stomach pains and a headache but the post-mortem results show he died of dehydration, hunger and had been beaten," she said.

Police are investigating.

(File created 12 January 2007)