PRETORIA NEWS, Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

Another boy dies after circumcision

2 July 2008

The number of winter circumcision fatalities in the Eastern Cape has risen to 15 following the death of another youth in the Libode area of Transkei, the provincial health department said on Wednesday.

Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the latest death followed an attempt by parents to frustrate the department's efforts to clamp down on an illegal initiation school.

He said police and health officials went to the site of the school at Gxulu village in the early hours of Saturday morning when one youth died there.

They found the site deserted, and community members assured them that all the remaining boys had been taken away by their parents and were safe.

However, Kupelo said, it appeared that they merely re-established the school at a different site.

A second boy died at the new site on Tuesday afternoon.

"This is unacceptable," he said. "People must understand these deaths happen at illegal schools because the whole thing is not properly organised."

Kupelo said autopsies had not yet been carried out, but the usual causes of initiate deaths were gangrene from septic wounds, or dehydration.

He said the department was disturbed by the growing tendency for parents to try to treat initiates' health problems at home.

"It is important for people to raise the alarm with the department because we have the skill, we have the capacity. They are running away from the hospital and it's not going to help."

Earlier this week Kupelo warned that parents who were negligent over their sons' circumcisions would face the full might of the province's Traditional Circumcision Act.

Parents found guilty of contravening the act faced a fine of R1 000 - which coincidentally is the daily cost of hospitalisation for an initiate - or six months in jail.

Over 90 other initiates are being treated in various Eastern Cape hospitals, four of them facing possible genital amputation.

Meanwhile, one Libode chief on Wednesday announced measures to clamp down on illegal circumcision in his area.

Chief Mangaliso Bokleni said his Gibisela traditional council had called an urgent community meeting for Thursday to discuss circumcision problems that have already claimed the life of one initiate in the area.

Bokleni said illegal circumcisions, by unregistered traditional surgeons, were a "big problem" in the area.

Though 18 was the proper age for circumcision, children as young as 11 were being subjected to the practice.

Another problem was that youths did not write their school exams before going to circumcision schools.

Thursday's meeting, which would also be attended by health department officials, would introduce a single traditional surgeon responsible for the entire council area, which covers eight villages.

He would be the only surgeon with authority to circumcise boys from those villages.

Along with him would be four traditional nurses responsible for management of the initiation schools, where boys stay after the circumcision.

Bokleni said the actual circumcisions would be performed only on the premises of the council offices, and a guardian or parent of the youth would have to be present.

The council intended to impose a fine of an ox - usually paid in its R600 cash equivalent - on anyone who did not comply with these resolutions. - Sapa

(File created 3 July 2008)