News / Africa

    Botched Circumcisions Kill 30 South African Boys

    Xhosa boys covered with a blankets and smeared with chalky mud sit in a field as others undergo a traditional male circumcision ceremony into manhood near the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, June 30, 2013.
    Xhosa boys covered with a blankets and smeared with chalky mud sit in a field as others undergo a traditional male circumcision ceremony into manhood near the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, June 30, 2013.
    Anita Powell
    South Africa’s ruling party has said enough is enough after 30 boys died over the weekend because of botched ritual circumcisions.  The latest wave of deaths has doubled this year’s toll, making 2013 one of the deadliest years on record.

    South Africa's ruling ANC party says it is “distressed” by reports of the deaths of some 30 boys and the hospitalization of 300 more from ritual circumcisions in rural Eastern Cape province.

    To that end, the ANC is calling for modernization of this ancient, secret ritual.  Each year, tens of thousands of boys leave their homes for the ritual that is said to include physical challenges, deprivation and isolation.

    Most boys go through the ritual as teenagers; officials have said 30,000 boys have signed up this year.

    ANC spokesman Keith Khoza says the men who perform the circumcisions need to have medical training and be licensed, at the very least.

    “We think that the recent deaths are quite alarming, they are unacceptable.  And we believe they can be mitigated with proper medical support in these initiatives.  But also the competency of the people that are conducting this, the need to undergo some medical training," said Khoza.

    Officials have said many of the circumcision-related deaths are caused by blood loss and infection after circumcision.  Those surgeries are normally performed by traditional leaders, not doctors.

    Other initiates have been found to have died of exhaustion and hypothermia after their young bodies were pushed to the limit.

    But Khoza says the ANC doesn’t want to ban the ritual outright - nor, he says, can they.

    “It’s going to be quite difficult, owing to the fact that the majority of our people in traditional areas, they practice this as a ritual which has a deep meaning for them as for them as to the standing of individuals in society.  It’s difficult, you’ll meet with resistance if you were to try and do that," he said.

    Concern is growing as the death toll mounts.  In May, another 30 boys died in the rural provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga during their manhood initiation ceremonies.  That prompted the nation’s parliament to hold a debate on the issue.  But that debate resulted in no real decisions.

    Critics say they were disappointed that the legislators did not order the shutdown of initiation schools.   

    Spokesman Sizwe Pamla of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union is one of those critics.  He says the government has failed those boys, and called for officials to prosecute traditional leaders for the deaths of the children.

    “We really don’t think that the government has done enough.  We actually think that it’s about time that we take strong actions against these cultures, especially the custodians, which happens to be the traditional leadership.  We think the traditional leadership needs to be accountable.  If they cannot take care, or be responsible, for the lives of the young ones who undergo this initiation, then we have to look at the possibility of discontinuing this culture," said Pamla.

    But there may be an upcoming sea change.  Health Minister Aaron Mostoaledi, who supports circumcision as an AIDS-prevention measure, says some of the circumcisions are being performed illegally and need to be reined in.

    He told a local newspaper on Monday: “It has turned into something criminal and no longer has anything to do with culture.  Young lives are being destroyed.”

    You May Like

    Syrian Rebel Realignment Likely as al-Qaida Leader Blesses Split

    Jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida in what observers dub a ‘deception and denial’ exercise

    New India Child Labor Law Could Make Children More Vulnerable

    Concerns that allowing children to work in family enterprises will push more to work

    What Take-out Food Reveals About American History

    Carry-out food explains a lot about the changes taking place in society, so here's the deal with pizza, Chinese food and what racism has to do with taking food to go

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Claire Casey from: Sheffield
    July 19, 2013 5:33 PM
    Something needs to be done about this quickly. How distressing to see a young man on the news saying he has to have his penis removed as a result of this botched exercise. It's terrible. It's ruining lives. What can we do to help?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora