21 Boys Have Been Confirmed Dead During An Initiation Ceremony In Eastern Cape

21 Boys Have Been Confirmed Dead During An Initiation Ceremony In Eastern Cape

21 boys have been confirmed dead in an Initiation Ceremony held in Eastern Cape, South Africa. A spokesperson has announced that schools, where this happened, will be shut down.

Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, the premier’s spokesperson, recently confirmed that 21 boys died during an initiation ceremony in Eastern cape. Allegedly, the boys died from dehydration and other health complications from the circumcision ritual.

21 boys died during an initiation ceremony in Eastern Cape

circumcision ritual in South africa

Image: ABC

The Xhosa Ethnic Group, most of whom live in Eastern Cape province are one of the ethnic groups that still practice the ritual of circumcision. It is part of a traditional ceremony to welcome boys into manhood. The practice got the attention of the government and media in the 90s due to the resulting deaths. Since then over 6,000 boys have found themselves in the hospital, while more than 3,000 have died and some 76 boys have had to have their manhoods cut because of complications.

initiation ceremony in eastern cape

In this current case, the CRL Rights Commission has announced that all schools in the Eastern Cape where initiates died this season would be closed for a year. According to the commission’s chairman, Professor David Mosoma, these deaths are clearly a violation of the sanctity of human life.

Also, they would be working with several organs of state, including the NPA and the police, to ensure it never happens again.

How have the deaths affected belief in the initiation ritual?

21 boys dead from initiation ceremony in Eastern Cape

Image by Schalk van Zuydam

A 2015 children’s bill stipulates that no child should undergo circumcision against their will. Despite these deaths, it hasn’t discouraged boys between 15 to 25 years from presenting themselves for the ritual whenever the time comes. That’s how significant the initiation is, with some calling it ‘the greatest day in every boy’s life.’ Traditionally speaking, the ritual involves a number of stages that are as difficult as they are complex, each stage with its own strict rules and regulations. Afterwards, the boys who make it through are granted certain privileges like getting more knowledge, respect, and the rights to get married. Unfortunately, those 21 dead boys didn’t live to enjoy the so-called respect.

According to EWN, the province’s premier visited the initiation schools in the area, alongside some government officials and traditional leaders. Minister Zweli Mkhize said most of the boys had died from dehydration. “This is due to the belief that initiates should not get water. So, before and after the ceremony they don’t get water. This leads to mental confusion, electrolyte imbalance and renal failure.”

The minister recommended that initiations should hold only during winter periods. He argues that “In the same area, no deaths are recorded in winter every year.”

Read also: Stop telling your sons these 10 things: raising boys the right way

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Written by

Lydia Ume