May 21, 2013
Local leader blames negligence in S. Africa circumcision deaths
JOHANNESBURG — Negligence is to blame for some of the 27 deaths of young males who died while undergoing ritual circumcision, a local traditional leader said Tuesday.
The death toll during the procedures -- part of traditional rites of passage into manhood -- on Friday climbed to 27, police said.
South African police last week said they had launched a series of murder inquiries into the matter and President Jacob Zuma has called on them to move faster in their investigation and arrest the culprits.
The latest four deaths occurred on Friday in the northeastern Mpumalanga province.
"We have proven that there was some negligence," Kgoshi Mathibela Mokoena, head of the traditional leaders in the provincial parliament told AFP.
He said preliminary findings showed that some of the 30,000 males currently undergoing the circumcision rites, had developed complications but were not administered proper after-care after they were left in the hands of inexperienced young men.
After conducting the procedures, some of the circumcisers left and returned to the secluded bushy sites, hours later, some of them drunk.
Other people suffered from dehydration as it was established some of the 200 odd sites dotted across the province lacked clean drinking water.
Despite the escalating death toll, police are yet to make arrests almost two weeks after the first death occurred on May 8.
"There is a huge amount of investigation, it's not a question of arresting but doing the right things during the investigation," said police spokesman Leonard Hlathi, dismissing fears some of the perpetrators may flee.
Police have so far launched series of murder inquests into the deaths of the boys and young men aged between 13 and 20 years, but Zuma said they were not acting fast enough.
"While we welcome action taken by police so far in opening murder dockets, we wish to urge them to ensure swift justice for the families and that those responsible for the deaths are brought to book without delay", he said in a statement.
The country is "outraged at this massive and unnecessary loss of young life at the hands of those who are supposed to nurture and protect them," said the president.
Ritual circumcision is common among South Africa's ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele ethnic groups.
Deaths at the so-called initiation schools in South Africa are common, with several hundred cases recorded in recent years due to bleeding and infections.
Boys spend around a month in secluded bush or mountains sites for the sessions that also include lessons on the virtues of masculine courage and discipline.