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Traditional leaders say no to medical circumcisions

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of 21 boys in the Eastern Cape during the summer traditional initiation season.

FILE: Young boys attending a traditional initiation school in Libode in the Eastern Cape. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The House of Traditional Leaders said on Wednesday it would not allow medical doctors into initiation schools in an effort to alleviate deaths because that would amount to colonising Xhosa people.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday confirmed the deaths of 21 boys in the Eastern Cape during the summer traditional initiation season.

He said most had died from dehydration.

Traditional leaders and government officials have expressed their regret and apologised for the countless deaths at initiations schools.

The Eastern Cape government said around 500 boys had died during traditional circumcisions in the last five years.

But traditional leaders were adamant. They did not want assistance from medical doctors.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, from the House of Traditional Leaders, said: “We are saying no. The colonialists want to suffocate us and suppress us. They want to promote circumcisions in hospitals which is taboo.”

He said they would not promote medical circumcision over traditional practices.

At the same time, the National House of Traditional Leaders agreed that initiations only take place in winter to reduce the number of fatalities.

The government suggested that the practice only happens in winter to avoid deaths.