Government has allocated R20 million to the Eastern Cape Health Department to curb the deaths of initiates and ensure safe circumcisions. Seventeen boys have died due to botched circumcisions since the start of the circumcision season.
Eastern Cape Health and officials from Pretoria met in Bhisho to discuss strategies to tackle circumcision-related deaths in the province.
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo says: "The discussions were held in Bhisho and it transpired that the department is allocated R20 million to deal with circumcision and ensure safe circumcision in the Eastern Cape."
In July this year, initiate deaths rocketed to the alarming figure of 42 in the Eastern Cape while other provinces like Limpopo and Free State had much lower figures of four and five respectively.
More than 300 initiates were admitted to hospitals across the Eastern Cape this season due to botched circumcisions or complications resulting from failure to carry out medical check-ups before going to the bush.
Circumcision is performed by traditional "teachers" or "principals" who run the initiation school
In South Africa, traditionally performed circumcision is still largely influenced by culture as apposed to Western circumcision at a hospital. It is performed routinely on boys from infancy to adolescence to initiate them into manhood. Although other South African ethnic groups practice the ritual, it is mostly associated with the Xhosa culture. According to the history of the Xhosa people, one has to be circumcised to be considered a "man".
Circumcision is performed by traditional "teachers" or "principals" who run the initiation school, often in the bush where boys spend two or more weeks undergoing all the rituals. However there have been reports that no anesthetic is used, therefore hygiene becomes crucial.
The leaders performing the procedure use "razors" or knives that are reportedly not sterilised and can be used to circumcise the entire group of initiates.