Law may lead to prosecution if initiates deprived of water

DISCUSSING CHALLANGES: Initiation forums from local municipalities meet to present their reports after the winter season is closed Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

A law allowing for prosecution against those responsible for depriving initiates of water is underway, district health department circumcision co-coordinator and initiation forum secretary, Ayanda Mxekezo, disclosed during a recent quarterly meeting.

Initiation forums from local municipalities were presenting their reports after the winter season was closed.

In this winter season, the Chris Hani district lost one initiate from Enoch Mgijima Local Municipal area. The Ezibeleni initiate died from a heart condition in Frontier Hospital after he had not taken his medical treatment with him on camp.

Last year, the district had no deaths in the winter season. Meanwhile, four initiates died in the summer season.

Three initiates were shot dead in Tsomo and another died from dehydration in Ezibeleni.

Mxekezo said: “We are busy with the office of the prosecutor so that if an initiate dies from dehydration after being deliberately deprived of water, somebody must account.

“We have been discussing this for a long time.

”Thirteen initiates died from dehydration and gangrene in the province in spite of the message being preached repeatedly.”

He said the pathology forensic report would be used to prosecute the culprits responsible for preventing an initiate from drinking water.

“When a person is deprived of water their organs fail.

”We must hold people accountable, including those who tighten the dressings which result to gangrene,” he said.

District Initiation Forum chairperson chief Xolela Mbali said initiation campaigns were expected to begin next month in schools, while traditional nurses and surgeons would receive training in October.

Forum representatives also spoke of facing a lack of co-ordination in working with traditional leaders.

Mbali said they were working through their initiation councils, but added that more emphasis should be placed on defining the roles which the traditional leaders should play.

Other issues discussed included the ongoing challenge with funding, which limited the forum in doing efficient work on the ground.

This included transport for bush-tracking, lack of protective clothing, catering services and airtime.

There were also discussions on getting the initiation function featured in the municipality’s budget, to avoid inefficiency as a result of under-resourcing.

Another proposal was starting the summer season ahead of time for initiates who were not at school.

This would ease the burden of the high numbers of initiates expected to flock in for the summer season in December.

Forums were urged to use their power to influence the general public not to place initiates in mountainous locations which made it difficult for transport to reach them in emergencies.

Population Services International, a non-profit organisation, assisted the forums with personal protective equipment.

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