Two illegal initiation schools in Buffalo City Metro were closed on Monday, with authorities warning that should they be put up again the initiates would be taken to hospital and their parents arrested.
BCM circumcision forum chair Nkosi Stanley Makinana led a team of traditional leaders, health officials and police in the clampdown operation.
This follows Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane’s announcement earlier this month that initiation was suspended as the country battles Covid-19.
Some of the initiates were circumcised on Saturday, meaning they had directly violated the suspension of initiation in the province.
When Makinana and his team arrived at the initiation huts in Nxurhuni village in East London, none of the initiates could produce documentation that they had been medically examined before undergoing the Xhosa passage to manhood. Some said their documents had been burnt in a hut fire at the weekend.
A handful of men were told to take down the huts and take the initiates to nearby shacks instead of transferring them to hospital.
When the initiates heard that they would not be transferred to hospitals, their faces lit up and they breathed a sigh of relief as that meant they would still be able to finish undergoing the rite without being medically treated — something that is not allowed in traditional circumcision.
In one of the initiation huts, a traditional nurse was seen smearing saliva onto one of the traditional plants used to nurse initiates — something sharply criticised by Makinana and his team.
Armed with hand sanitisers, the team told traditional nurses to practise good personal hygiene to minimise the chances of the initiates contracting the novel virus. One of the traditional nurses had his own hand sanitiser.
Makinana then took the operation to Scenery Park, where he said they would demolish an illegal initiation hut.
He told DispatchLIVE the operation was provincewide, and the idea was to ensure the 21-day lockdown was observed.
“We want to send a strong message to parents who saw the closure of schools as an opportunity to have their sons circumcised that the long arm of the law will catch up with them.
“There are no teams to monitor initiation schools because we did not plan for it since the premier and Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha said there should be no traditional initiation.
“We are taking down all traditional initiation huts throughout the province,” he said.
Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders CEO Mziwethemba Nkantsu said they embarked on the operation to play their part and ensure safety during the lockdown.
“At the end of the day we want to save the lives of our children because we have to ensure that these initiation huts are demolished or burnt and that their parents take them to safe places, so that they will recover closer to home because the initiation programme has been suspended,” he said.
Nkantsu said they had been alerted by communities to the initiation schools mushrooming around the province. This showed that people were not serious about winning the war against the coronavirus, he said.
“Where we have closed the initiation schools, we will continue monitoring them to ensure that they are not put up again after we have left.”
Mlamli Skali, the father of one of the initiates, said: “I believe what the government is doing is good because they are putting the lives of our children first. We heard about the suspension of initiation but my son did not get permission from me, so I am happy about this.”
WATCH | Officials destroy huts to enforce suspension of initiation in the Eastern Cape. Video: Mkhululi Ndamase pic.twitter.com/rxb7ALzRkV
— The Daily Dispatch (@Dispatch_DD) March 30, 2020