THE DAILY DISPATCH, East London, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, Monday, 4 September 2006.

Ban circumcision schools – pastor

Ungodly practices are taking place at them, he says, including initiates eating their own foreskins


AN East London pastor is waging a campaign to stop circumcision ceremonies.

Senior pastor Ndipiwe Mcoteli, of the Burning Bush Ministries in Braelynn, said his drive began in response to the deaths in initiation schools and also because he believes ungodly practices take place.

“Another reason is that once the young men from our church came back from initiation schools they didn't want to serve God or live morally any more.”

He claims muti is used and this was contrary to the Bible. “Traditional medicine is used there. Evil practices are done there. In some cases young boys are told to eat their own foreskin after it is cut off – that is cannibalism.”

Mcoteli, who was circumcised in his youth, said some young men seemed to lose respect for their parents and elders because after initiation they considered themselves to be adults.

“A boy who was not drinking before starts drinking when he comes back and all of a sudden they become promiscuous because they say it is their right as a man.

“Boys are told that when they get out, the first thing they must do is sleep with a girl to pass on their bad luck and that they must never sleep with her again. What is this promoting?”

Evangelist Daniel Ekechukwu says he had to counsel a young man whose mother came to him, weeping “telling me her son had been serving God, but after coming from initiation school he started drinking”. He had also been told “by people who have been there themselves” about initiates eating their own foreskins.

“This has been a closely guarded secret. But people who have been there themselves have told me that they ate their foreskins because they didn’t want the traditional doctors to use them in muti,” he said.

Chief Justice Mabandla, a representative of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders in the national House of Traditional Leaders, said he had heard from reliable sources that eating foreskins did happen in some instances. They believe “witches will take part of the skin to use for witchcraft”.

“This is superstition and those who do it must be called to book.”

However, he dismissed claims that initiation changed a person’s behaviour, causing them to drink or become promiscuous. And he believed circumcision rituals were an important rite of passage to manhood.

“This is our culture,” he said.

“As Xhosas we believe there is a stage where a boy is a schoolboy and there is also a stage where he should qualify as an adult. The circumcision ceremony is where a boy lets go of the habits of boyhood and takes on the habits of manhood.”

He acknowledged that, in some cases, youths were told to sleep with young women to pass on their bad luck, but this was only in cases where traditional surgeons were ignorant.

Both Mcoteli and Ekechukwu believe youths should go to a medical doctor if they wanted to be circumcised.

“Circumcision is just healthy and we encourage our men to do at a hospital because it is hygienic,” said Mcoteli.

“The removal of a foreskin does not make you a man but responsibility towards your community and family does.”

Mcebisi Xundu, president of the Eastern Cape Council of Churches disagrees: “Circumcision is a part of our culture (and) it is part of what defines a man, even if you are a Christian.”

But, he said, if young men were taught immoral behaviour at initiation schools the Church needed to intervene to build a godly character in them. He condemned the use of muti “if indeed this happens”.

“We cannot support it and in fact medical doctors must do the circumcision. It’s either that they should circumcise the boys at the bush or in their homes.”

Luxolo Mkosana, 23, said he decided not to go to initiation school because this was not what defined him as a man. “A man is someone who looks to add value to the community, who makes a positive contribution to the people around him, who is a good role model to the next generation ... someone who fears, respects and does the will of God.”

He believes circumcision “mainly has to do with honouring your ancestors, which is contrary to the word of God, because we honour Jesus Christ, not people who have passed away. Ancestors never helped me when I went through difficult times.”

(File created 8 September 2006)