Johannesburg: Botched circumcisions
performed during traditional initiation rites in South Africa
have killed 40 boys and put more than 100 in hospital this
month, a health official said on Wednesday.
The boys, who were taken into the bush and circumcised as
part of traditional rites of passage, died from gangrene,
dehydration and pneumonia, said Sizwe Kupelo, health
department spokesman for Eastern Cape province.
The Eastern Cape is one of South Africa's poorest
provinces and among the few areas where boys are still sent
into secret schools for circumcision ceremonies to mark their
passage to manhood.
Boys die every year from botched circumcisions by
ill-trained traditional surgeons in rural areas. Last year in
the Eastern Cape, 91 boys died from complications of
circumcisions, 55 of them in June, when the winter initiation
season is at its height.
Kupelo said practitioners of the rite circumcise up to 50
boys with the same knife without sterilising it in between.
"They use herbs to clean, hence this thing becomes
gangrenous and infected," he told AFP.
He said some practitioners also botched circumcisions
because of a lack of training.
"In some cases boys were not circumcised but mutilated,"
The latest death occurred yesterday in the town of Tsolo,
where a 19-year-old initiate died shortly after being admitted
Kupelo said the problem is not the tradition itself but
the way it was being practised in the eastern region of the
First Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 17:59