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30 men die during traditional initiation in South Africa

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At least 30 young men have died in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and 80 more hospitalized, during the customary initiation season, the province’s House of Traditional Leaders said on Sunday.

Speaking to local broadcaster eNCA, the department’s Nkosi Langa Mavuso said: “We have lost about 30 initiates. They died of dehydration, septicaemia, not dressing the wounds properly.”

The country is almost half way through its summer “Ulwaluko” season, which sees thousands of boys from the age of 16 undergo traditional circumcision and associated rituals that mark the transition from childhood to adulthood.

After the circumcision carried out by a traditional surgeon, boys are expected to spend a period of seclusion out in the rural bush. It is here that many of them are not cared for properly, Mavuso said.

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The secretary general of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, Zolani Mkiva, told eNCA that something drastic needed to be done to stop these unnecessary deaths which occur every year.

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said most of the deaths had occurred at illegal initiation schools, noting that when procedures were carried out correctly, youngsters did not die.

“These schools are not playing their part in safeguarding our traditions,” he said.

About 70.000 boys had registered for the process this year. The practice had been put on hold from March last year to June 2021 because of Covid-19 restrictions.

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