Eastern Cape may flout advice and lift circumcision rites' ban

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The House of Traditional Leaders in the Eastern Cape wants the suspension on traditional circumcision rites because of COVID-19 to be lifted, despite opposition from within the provincial health department.

The Times. reports that the Health Department special adviser Dr Bevan Goqwana, who is assisting the OR Tambo district’s joint operations centre, said with the spike in positive cases this was not advisable, but if authorities decided to move ahead with lifting the ban it had be to be strictly regulated.

“I don’t think we are ready. It will be impossible to keep social distance inside ibhoma (hut) and if one person gets infected there, they will spread the virus because there’s no ventilation. People have to share alcohol there sometimes and that will need to be regulated as well.”

He added that the government was still struggling to control circumcision-related deaths in the mountains and that reopening the traditional rite would be a disaster.

The report says an inquiry was sent to the Eastern Cape Health Department spokesperson Siyanda Manana on this issue but at the time of writing no response had been provided.


Should the summer season be allowed, traditional leaders would need to manage huge numbers of young boys rushing to the bush for their rite, says a Daily Dispatch report. Calls to lift the suspension have been made by indigenous religious groups and lobby groups for traditional African customs. Some are angered that the government has allowed other religious practices to be reintroduced, but not initiation rites.

Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders acting chair Langa Mavuso said: “Communities are ready and prepared to take their boys to the bush this summer season. “In preparation for the 2020 summer traditional initiation season, the house has crafted a risk-adjusted strategy to prevent, mitigate and combat challenges associated with COVID-19,” said Mavuso.

He said the consultation process was used to canvass views and suggestions to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 towards the reopening of the summer traditional initiation season.

The meeting resolutions will be presented to premier Oscar Mabuyane and Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha. “Time is not in our favour. We need to move with due speed on this matter. Our people are ready to send their boys to the bush. We dare not disappoint and test their patience,” said Mavuso.

The report says Mabuyane recently called for suspension on traditional circumcision and initiation to be lifted “but operate under very strict conditions”.


Full report in The Times


Full Daily Dispatch report


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