No initiate deaths in 16 years at Embo Madoda

SUMMER SEASON: From left, local house of traditional leaders chief Aaron Feni with Embo Madoda chairperson and senior surgeon Sithembele Yamaphi at the end of the summer circumcision season Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

Embo Madoda Traditional Circumcision School in Machibini has maintained its record of no initiate deaths over the past 16 years.

The school ended the summer season with 42 young men awarded certificates for graduating to manhood.

Embo Madoda chairperson and senior surgeon Sithembele Yamaphi

confidently said: “Our strategic ways of managing the school mean that we will continue to have zero deaths.”

Yamaphi said the school was equipped to protect initiates because three local doctors volunteered their services to the community in the season.

“I am grateful to Dr Zimamele Fuzani, Dr Siyabonga Jwaqa and Dr Loyiso Ndamase, who were available on a 24-hour basis to maintain the health of the initiates,” Yamaphi said.

“Ilinge police also made rounds to ensure the safety of the initiates.

“The ANC Women’s League donated blankets,” he said.

The school also took in five underprivileged youths free of charge.

Regarding initiate deaths, Yamaphi said it was a concern that some families negligently disregarded their children’s medical treatment, with some hiding their sons’ health conditions.

This contributed to initiate fatalities, he said.

Department of cooporative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC, Xolile Nqatha, had disapproved of the school’s location.

The MEC said according to Xhosa custom, initiates should be secluded from residential areas and their structures should be burned once the initiates were ready.

However, Yamaphi said: “Embo Madoda has an approved environmental certificate from Chris Hani District Municipality [CHDM], which means the structure complies with standard requirements.”

Eastern Cape traditional leaders also made a call for the custom to be stopped in summer to prevent further deaths from dehydration, caused by extreme heat.

Yamaphi responded by saying the custom “has nothing to do with summer”. “What is needed are people who know how to  look after the initiates properly.

“We cannot say the season will only be in winter because we want our children to attend winter school in June.

“Education comes before initiation.”

The traditional senior surgeon also called for CHDM to be more visible in deep rural areas because most fatalities occurred in villages.

Traditional leader chief Nkosi Bangihlathi Aaron Feni, who is based in Outhay, near Gwatyu, said instead of the MEC criticising Yamaphi about the school’s location, he should focus on his good record.

“This is a negative attitude, because when it comes to safeguarding the lives of initiates as required by the government, he delivers,” Feni said.

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