The Eastern Cape initiate death toll has risen to 13.
None of the initiate deaths are Covid-19 related, but two traditional surgeons have died due to the virus.
The official initiate death toll is at 12, but this excludes an initiate who died in Libode on October 31, before the official start of the summer season on December 17. Grade 5 pupil Bathandwa Funda, 15, died at an illegal initiation school at Gxulu village near Libode.
Revered Eastern Cape traditional surgeons Qaqambile Siyongwana of Mthatha and Mzimasi Mtimka of Peddie were killed by the virus in December and November.
This week the OR Tambo district initiation forum breathed a sigh of relief when five initiates in Mthatha, who initially tested positive following the death of Siyongwana, their traditional surgeon, tested negative.
Eastern Cape house of traditional leaders acting chair Nkosi Langa Mavuso on Tuesday said the death of an 18-year-old initiate at Highway Gardens in Amalinda in East London brought the death toll in BCM to two.
He said: ”According to preliminary reports, it is alleged that one of the initiates had hallucinations and refused food and water from January 2 and died on January 3.”
He said the initiate had no known chronic condition before his death.
On January 3, a 19-year-old initiate died at KuTshaphile village, Nkondlo administrative area near Ngcobo in the Chris Hani district.
Mavuso said: ”According to preliminary investigations, the initiate complained of a painful and swollen lower abdominal area. He died at All Saints hospital at about 10.20pm on January 3. Dehydration and septicaemia are suspected as cause of death, but we have to wait for the outcome of an autopsy.”
The slaughter of three initiates by mystery gunmen on Friday night at Jojweni in Gqogqorha administrative area near Tsomo pushed the Chris Hani district toll to four.
One initiate died in Alfred Nzo municipal district and one in Amathole.
Mavuso said the two surgeons had been the “face” of Covid-19 awareness campaigns in schools and contributed to setting up risk strategies for initiation schools.
Mavuso said Siyongwana was a maths teacher and rugby coach at Mthatha’s Excelsior high school. Mtimka was a shop owner and the father of Ongama Mtimka, a political analyst who lectures at Nelson Mandela University.
Siyongwana was buried at Bhongweni-KuDudumashe village in Ngqamakhwe on December 29. Mtimka, who died on November 15, was buried at Rhurha-KuLubalele in Peddie on November 28.
OR Tambo district initiation forum chair Nkosi Mkhanyiseli Dudumayo said after Siyongwana’s death, it was left to him to ensure the safety of all 34 initiates at the school, including the five who tested positive.
Dudumayo reacted to their latest negative tests saying: ”What a relief.”
He said the situation was alleviated by a rapid response team which visited the initiates daily, and the efforts of traditional nurses and monitoring teams.
Dudumayo said: “I have never seen such bravery and passion.
Families were also allowed to fetch the initiates “freely,” said Dudumayo.
The initiates at Siyongwana’s school will graduate on Friday.
By Lulamile Feni – DispatchLIVE