Martin Williams
3 minute read
22 Dec 2021
7:50 am

Xhosa initiation has its place

Martin Williams

South African 'first people' would include the San, Khoi Khoi and, some would argue the Xhosa, whose initiation schools are attracting negative attention.

Some of the initiates who were rescued from illegal initiation schools near the R59 freeway in Redan on December 7, 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Police officers destroyed about six illegal initiation schools, freeing about 32 initiates and arrested four men for running the schools. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)

Deaths, injuries and illness during traditional initiation rites are unforgivable. “The usual causes of death are dehydration and septic infections,” writes Mondli Makhanya. “There have been instances in which beatings, mistreatment and food deprivation (all in the name of hardening the initiates for manhood) have contributed to deaths.” This season, there are increasing allegations of kidnapping and abduction of boys, some as young as nine. Criminals are getting rich by abusing traditional practices. The overall message is clear: don’t send your son to a rural setting to be circumcised, for cash, by someone who is not medically trained in any...