THE DAILY DISPATCH, South Africa, 22 August 2002.

Circumcision body meets in bid to curb initiate deaths

By Samkelo Ngwenya

MDANTSANE -- Traditional surgeons from around here have embarked on a community awareness campaign to try to end the high circumcision death rate of the past season.

Twenty-nine initiates have died in the Eastern Cape since June from botched circumcisions.

Buffalo City Traditional Circumcision Association co-ordinator Vuyani Sijako said that a campaign meeting this week went smoothly. "We don't want to see any deaths or hospitalised boys next summer," he said.

"We are registering all traditional surgeons and teaching them about the new law on circumcision," Sijako said.

A total of 132 initiates, as young as 12, have been admitted to provincial hospitals suffering from complications arising from circumcisions.

This led to 22 traditional surgeons (ingibi) and nurses (amakhankatha) being arrested and charged with contravening the law governing circumcision.

The number of dead due to botched circumcisions in the province was more than four times that of last year when six initiates died and 74 were admitted to hospitals.

"We want to persuade parents not to allow boys to undergo circumcision without a medical examination," Sijako said.

"Parents must not allow unregistered traditional surgeons and traditional nurses to handle their sons," he said.

The government passed a circumcision law nine months ago to curb deaths among initiates.

According to the Application of Health Standards in Traditional Circumcision Act, no person --except a recognised traditional medical practitioner -- may perform a circumcision without the permission of a medical officer designated for the area.

A circumcision school may not be held or initiates treated without written permission of the medical officer.

Penalties for not complying with various sections of the law range from a fine of R1000, or imprisonment not exceeding six months, to R10000, or imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

A follow-up meeting will be held in Mdantsane next Monday.

(File prepared 23 August 2002)