February 16, 2014
Spooks to curb circumcision deaths?by Loyiso Sidmba
The Eastern Cape Health Department is turning to the country’s intelligence agencies to halt the annual circumcision deaths and mutilation of young men and boys in the province’s initiation schools.
Botched circumcisions claimed 496 lives and there were 221 penile amputations between June 2006 and December last year in the province.
Last year, 83 initiates died while 31 had their penises amputated. A further 670 were admitted to hospital.
Now the department wants “vigorous police intervention, intelligence and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to secure convictions”. While more than 250 arrests have been made since March 2008, convictions have been scarce.
NPA regional spokesman Luxolo Tyali did not respond to requests for conviction figures regarding initiates’ deaths and botched circumcisions, despite promising to do so.
In its presentation to Parliament last week, the department said 40 people were arrested last year, but it is unclear whether there were any convictions.
Other interventions proposed by the department include institutionalising the practice by centralising the ritual and building permanent structures staffed by iingcibi and amakhankatha (traditional surgeons and attendants).
Community Development Foundation for SA (Codefsa) director Nkululeko Nxesi said while the Eastern Cape provincial government and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi acknowledged the crisis and were allocating resources, a lot more could be done.
“The current model of providing resources during the circumcision season is not working,” Nxesi said.
He described the model as reactive, and proposed ongoing programmes. Nxesi said the problem of initiate deaths and mutilations was “bigger than we think”.
There were unemployed youths thinking initiation was a way of making a quick buck, surgeons “operating like the Mafia” abducting children and corrupt medical doctors who only did routine check-ups instead of medical examinations on would-be initiates.
“They don't even check these boys. Iingcibi bring forms, doctors sign without seeing the initiates. This is a money-making scheme, in some areas even health officials perform circumcisions,” Nxesi said.