THE STAR, Gauteng, South Africa, 7 July 2006.

Circumcised men to probe deaths of initiates

by Boyd Webb

A special task team (for the circumcised only) has been established by the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) to investigate the deaths of initiates at circumcision schools.

The task team, proposed by Chief Malesela Dikgale of Limpopo, was ordered to comprise only members who themselves have been initiated to avoid any possible embarrassment or problems during the investigation.

More than 20 boys are thought to have died in initiation schools since the start of winter. A number have died from pneumonia while others starved to death or died as a result of injuries suffered during the initiation process.

In calling for the team's establishment, Dikgale said the NHTL should be given a full report on what problems were experienced by the initiates.

'It's casting this institution in a very bad light'

This, he felt, would serve to remove much of the sensationalism attached to the subject of initiation schools.

"Some of the problems have ballooned, especially in Limpopo, where it was reported that 10 people have died at schools. But that is not true, only four people have died," he said during a special sitting of the NHTL in the Western Cape Legislature on Thursday.

Dikgale said the investigation would serve to sift fact from fiction.

Agreeing to the immediate need for an investigation, Free State Chief Mathealira Mopeli said the death of initiates was of great concern to the NHTL as it was casting aspersions on the practice.

"It is a very noble practice but it's being abused, just like the practice of lobola, which is being commercialised in certain circles."

North West Chief Molefe Pilane voiced his concern too. "It's casting this institution in a very bad light," he said.

Supporting the move, Limpopo Chief Cypriane Ngove suggested the formation of a national database and the deployment in future of NHTL members to the provinces before the start of the circumcision season to monitor events.

(File created 9 July 2006)