THE DAILY DISPATCH, Eastern Cape, South Africa, 23 November 2002.

Murder charges after initiates die

By Madoda Dyonana

UMTATA -- Health MEC Bevan Goqwana yesterday asked for charges to be brought against a local traditional surgeon after the death of two minors, following botched circumcisions at Waterfalls village near here.

Goqwana said the suspect allegedly circumcised Zola Mjamba,16, and Sifiso Kobo, 17. Zola died on Tuesday and Sifiso on Thursday. Their deaths were allegedly as a result of complications arising from the ritual.

Goqwana alleged the traditional surgeon acted without parental consent and failed to comply with departmental policy.

"We're angered by the news and will work very hard to ensure that the perpetrator is brought to book and would also like to send a strong message that the department will not tolerate such behaviour," said Goqwana.

He urged people to respect the tradition and comply with the departmental policy to avoid any further loss of life.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Nondumiso Jafta could only confirm Mjamba's death, saying the police were still investigating. No arrest has been made.

Provincial House of Traditional Leaders member Prince Xhanti Sigcawu expressed shock at the deaths, saying his organisation was against people disregarding the law.

He called on the authorities to arrest the perpetrator and ensure the rule of law.

"I also call upon our traditional leaders to focus their energies on the circumcision period and sensitise people on the importance of preserving the culture."

(File prepared 23 November 2002)