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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
SA considers circumcision dangers
By Victoria Phenethi
BBC, Johannesburg

South Africans
Circumcision is a rite of passage for Xhosa men
Traditional leaders and officials in South Africa are meeting to discuss the alarming number of injuries and deaths due to botched circumcisions.

In the last year, 12 boys have died and close to 92 have been hospitalised due to illegal circumcisions.

In the latest incident, a man aged 20 was beaten to death in a circumcision ceremony in the Eastern Cape.

"We cannot just sit back and fold our arms," said the chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

The house has convened leaders and healers, researchers and government officials to discuss the problem.

"If we don't stop the killing and the deaths... the culture is going to be looked at as if it is a criminal exercise," said Nkosi Mpiyezintombi Boy Mzimela.

Traditional schools

The government feels compelled to do something about the horrific incidents that often occur at traditional schools, said the minister for provincial and local government.

There has been a 70% decline in incidences of unlawful initiations from 2001 to date - but a lot of work still needs to be done to stop further deaths, Minister for Provincial and Local Government Sydney Mufamadi said.

A national law to regulate traditional initiation schools will be considered by parliament later this year, he said.

"We want to make sure that people are made to scrupulously observe all those things that will... guarantee the wellbeing of the initiates," he added.

On the agenda

"Traditional leaders have recognised that something has gone wrong and that they are also responsible for correcting the mistakes," said Dr Mathole Motshekga, director of the Kara Heritage Institute.

There is also a need for all stakeholders, such as government and traditional leaders, to come together to deal with the problem, Mr Motshekga added.

The conference is expected to develop a national legal framework to serve as a guideline for initiation schools throughout the country.

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