Forced circumcisions, abuse and death of boys at initiation camp send shock waves

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Nearly 100 boys at an initiation school in South Africa have been taken to the hospital after three teenagers, allegedly kidnapped a month ago, had been admitted following botched circumcisions.

Among them was an eight-year-old boy. Reports today say Grade 8 pupil Sifiso Radebe, 15, and two 17-year-old initiates were admitted to the Jubilee Hospital in Temba with septic genitals after operations at the Phelembe Initiation School in Bosplaas, owned by traditional healer Vusi Phelembe, 24.

The school is in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. Some of the children were allegedly taken to the school without their parent’s consent, is is claimed.

Apparently, the parents were asked for money for the children to graduate or payment of a cow if the child was to be released before completing the initiation.

This prompted the chairman of the community safety committee in the Gauteng legislature, Jacqui Mofokeng, to lead a team of local senior police officers, officials from the Tshwane Metro’s health department, and family members of two alleged abducted initiates to investigate.

The team held a meeting with Phelembe at Jubilee Hospital before visiting the school .

Ghastly conditions

Reports say delegates expressed shock at the health condition of the initiates. Some were emaciated and sickly, some walked with difficulty while others coughed continuously. An eight-year-old boy had facial injuries.

Surgery had to be performed on 78 of them. The hospital’s chief executive, Tiny Magano, said the majority of the initiates would spend the weekend in hospital.

The incident has resulted in the closure of the school.

But, there was drama when a group of parents arrived at the hospital yesterday, demanding the return of their children to the initiation school.
Moses Masemola, father of boys aged 13 and 14, said: “We expect the children to graduate. We want them back at the school.”

“I don’t know which school they want to take them to because Phelembe’s school was closed down on Wednesday,” said Mofokeng.
It reported that the owner of the initiation school allegedly flouted numerous by-laws for operating and managing an initiation school.

In Limpopo, four initiates died from diarrhoea this week, police said.

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