THE STAR, Gauteng, South Africa, Thursday, 5 October 2006

Scores of initiates died in E Cape, hearing told

October 05, 2006 Edition 2

Traditional circumcision rites have killed 83 initiates in the Eastern Cape alone between 1996 and 2005, public hearings into initiation schools have been told.

There had been 19 more deaths in the province this year. Another 63 initiates had to undergo amputations, while 562 were hospitalised, Eastern Cape Health Department officials said on the second day of the hearings in Lusikisiki yesterday.

"These are shocking statistics," said Mongezi Guma, chairperson of the commission for the promotion and protection of the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities (CRL Commission).

"We hope that at the end of this process an integrated system of accountability will be developed," said Guma, who also chaired the panel.

It heard that most of the deaths were in Pondoland, and most were caused by meningitis, physical abuse, hunger, dehydration, pneumonia, septicaemia and neglect.

"This is happening despite the fact that the provincial Health Department has dedicated more than 60 health officers to monitor the implementation of this cultural practice," the CRL Commission, SA Human Rights Commission and National House of Traditional Leaders said in a joint statement.

Some delegates were asking why the Health Department was handling the practice when traditional leaders and the Culture and Heritage Department were "directly concerned with practices including initiation and circumcision". - Sapa

(File created 10 October 2006)