The Xhosa culture, well known for its traditional circumcision and initiation custom ‘’Ulwaluko’’, has been attributed with various successes to the Department of Health such as lowering the risk of Sexual Transmitted Disease, educating young males for manhood responsibilities and also justifies young men to partake in male activities such as tribal meetings.
Tragically due to vulnerability, some males are forced to undergo the ritual without the awareness of their families while some are led by the influence of peer pressure, drugs and alcohol abuse. It would be inappropriate to say these are aware of the consequences of partaking in the custom.
The custom itself has been dark-lined with casualties such as abuse of initiates in certain villages hence arousing questions such as, “Should the practice be discontinued”? Should it be taken over by the Department of Health? Recent reports by the Eastern Cape Health department (2014-07-08) revealed that since the beginning of the winter initiation season, the deaths of initiates has risen to 25.
Two weeks back in one village outside Mbizana, Madiba village, an initiation school was allegedly attacked by a group of other initiates from another tribe. Thirteen boys escaped uninjured, and the initiation school was burned down. What is happening to our African Cultures? Is it substituted by modernism?
Spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said ‘’the parents of the initiates were to blame for some of the problems experienced, because Parents allowed criminals masquerading as circumcision experts to circumcise their children. The parents also denied health workers access so they could examine the boys, now Illegal initiation schools have turned the circumcision culture into something criminal’’He also said "In one instance, a young boy died a day after his father refused him access to a health worker. That parent must be held accountable."(www.news24.com)The chairman of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, is reported as saying "this is shocking, what are we not doing right?"
The circumcision crisis is seen by some as a battle between modern and traditional practices, or cultural versus health rights. This is not helpful. This is a matter of life and death and as such it places a duty on the Government to intervene and requires the Traditional Leadership to effect the necessary changes that will enable initiation practices to continue under safe conditions.