13 initiates in Umtata hospital

Umtata - Another mutilated initiation candidate has been admitted to the Umtata General Hospital in the Eastern Cape, bringing the total admitted since the weekend to 13.

The hospital's acting chief medical superintendent, Dr Zola Dabula, said the condition of all the post-circumcision initiation candidates was "very stable".

Dabula said they were suffering from minor genital infections - the result of unhygienic practices - and were being kept in a holding ward.

However, Dabula said there were another four teenagers - who had been in hospital for about a week - being kept in a separate ward.

Their condition was stable, but more serious, he said. Three of them had acute dehydration while the fourth lost his penis when it fell off because of gangrene.

Dabula said that boys whose penises fell off after circumcision had to live with a urinary catheter and a bag for about a year before penile reconstructive surgery could be done.

Speaking of the boys' life after surgery, Dabula said: "It's not a normal life as such - they can urinate, but they are compromised in their sexual activity."

The Eastern Cape government last year passed legislation to regulate circumcision practices, making initiation school surgeons liable to six- to 10-year prison sentences if they broke the law.

Corrupt, cruel places, says doc

The province also launched an education and awareness programme aimed at encouraging people to have their circumcision done in hospitals.

Dabula said: "I must say that previously... we had very serious problems with circumcision in this area. Last year, in December, we lost two patients. But, right now, we haven't lost anyone... I give credit to our educational process.

"We have created a system in which people who would like to be circumcised medically come to us. We circumcise them and afterwards they go and finish their initiation into manhood in the bush."

But Dabula also said that initiation schools today were corrupt and cruel places that were, in no way, representative of African traditions.

"Previously, the surgeon, who was chosen by the family, was an experienced person who had undergone supervisional work.

"Then, experienced people looked after the wound. They were called amakhankatha. Nowadays, amakhankatha are not experienced.

"The problem with the today's schools is that they are more than anything a place of vengeance. People who got beaten to a pulp in their day are there to inflict upon others the treatment they got," said Dabula.

(File prepared 03 July 2002)