Warning as initiation season looms

With just a few weeks left before the start of the summer initiation season, One Man Can Wellness centre, in Gugulethu, held an awareness campaign, at its offices, to help prevent unnecessary deaths.

Residents, traditional healers and chiefs gathered on Friday September 30, to promote safety and to ensure the protection of ulwaluko and other traditional customs.

Under the theme “our health, our culture, our youth and our future”, the event encouraged parents to send their children for medical assessments before they undergo the ritual. The assessments are vital to determine the health status of the boys before and after the initiation. The assessments also explore risk factors.

One Man Can Wellness centre manager Aviwe Mtibe said as the clinic they felt a need to start the campaign to ensure that parents were better equipped with knowledge and information around initiation.

He said they wanted to highlight the role played by clinics in curbing deaths among initiates and to eliminate illegal initiation schools.

Mr Mtibe said part of the campaign was to encourage the youth to visit a local youth-friendly clinic. He added that they had noticed that young people were reluctant to visit the clinic or share a facility with elders. The clinic caters for young people between the ages of 12 to 25. It operates two days a week.

Mr Mtibe said they wanted to bring different stakeholders together to ensure that not a single life was lost during the summer season.

“We also appeal to the chiefs to ensure that there are no illegal initiation schools,” he said.

“We want to change the negative perceptions that have characterised ulwaluko and restore its dignity.”

Mr Mtibe said they would work hand-in-hand with other traditional forums and chiefs to protect lives of all the initiates. He said they would visit and monitor initiation schools.

Chief Zwelidanile Galada said for boys to undergo initiation they must be 18 years and older and have their parents’ permission. Parents need to be in possession of a letter from a traditional leader authorising the boy’s circumcision, he said.

Chief Galada said iingcibi (traditional surgeons) that performed circumcision were required to ask for letter from the parents. The letter must indicate that the boys had undergone the medical assessment and were ready to undergo circumcision.

He said chiefs in the province had set up traditional forums to protect cultural customs and shutdown any illegal initiation schools.

The forums also ensure that the schools adhere to the rules and regulations of operating an initiation school and the results were already positive.

“We are the only province across the country which continuously keep recording zero deaths of initiates,” he said, but lashed out at the lack of initiation sites. It is sad that the local government in the province still fails to recognise us as chiefs and refuses to establish a house of traditional leaders.”

Gugulethu clinic manager Nomfundo Mavume said the campaign seeked to build a better future for the youth. She described the campaign as a bold step towards re-shaping the lives of young people. Ms Mavume said the campaign also encouraged girls to visit the youth-friendly clinic.

“The youth clinic deals with issues affecting young people starting from teenage pregnancy,” she said. “We need to create these platforms to allow the youth to access health facilities that are designed to suit their needs.”