30 die, 300 in hospital after traditional circumcision in S African province

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 July, 2013, 3:42am


Botched circumcisions killed 30 young men and landed almost 300 more in hospital during annual traditional initiation rites in a South African province, the health department said.

The 30 deaths in rural Eastern Cape province occurred during the season when young males undergo a rite of passage into manhood. Ten other youths were admitted to hospital after being rescued from a forest on Sunday, a spokesman for the provincial health department, Sizwe Kupelo, said.

"The 10 initiates' private parts are rotten. They are badly damaged. Their condition is scary," he said.

A further 293 young men were undergoing hospital treatment for dehydration, gangrene and septic wounds, the spokesman added. Some had lost their genitals.

Teenagers from ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele groups typically spend around a month in secluded bush or mountainous areas for their initiation into manhood.

This includes a circumcision as well as lessons on masculine courage and discipline.

Traditional surgeons perform the procedure in the bush, sometimes with unsterilised instruments and poor technique. Botched circumcisions leading to penis amputations and deaths are an annual tragedy.

In May, 34 deaths in two other provinces were reported.

The ruling African National Congress said on Sunday it was "distressed" over the latest deaths. It called for basic medical training of the traditional surgeons to render "an entrenched and necessary part of our cultural fabric" safer.