The ghost children of South Africa
Some massacres create legends yet others fade into obscurity.
While South Africa and the world focus on war zones and school massacres, there's a local massacre which takes place each year in the initiation season which generates very few headlines. It was announced on the weekend that another 30 boys and young men have died after botched circumcisions in the Eastern Cape: 30 young lives, snuffed out. In addition, over 300 were hospitalised, and five arrested, but still there lacks decisive action on behalf of the ghost children of South Africa.

Massacres without legends in SA

There will be “outrage” from government at the most. If enough outrage is produced, maybe there will be commissions of enquiry. If the chain of evidence is sufficient, someone may even be charged and sent to prison, but, given previous years, this is doubtful.

Without going too much into the rites of passage into manhood and the cultural identity associated with that tradition, it’s apparent that regulations geared towards protecting young men (in particular, their health) are not working. Unscrupulous practitioners are undercutting the prices charged by rivals and young men are avoiding circumcisions in clinics as these may be perceived as undermining a traditional cut.

Rural black lives "cheap"?

The massacre continues. Infections, partial amputations and dehydration contribute to the death toll. It is repeated year after year in the rural parts of this country, seemingly beyond the geographical limits of any accountability and exposing the appalling lack of value placed on the lives of young black men.

The horror of an armed man walking into a school with guns blazing is obviously totally different to the mass deaths of initiates, but the nameless ones who die in agony after their circumcisions go wrong are forgotten- their families will mourn, holding onto faded photos, but there will be no national grief.

That’s simply atrocious.

Not least because these deaths are, to some extent, avoidable. A small amount of community outreach and education could save these boys. The police are not there to prevent crimes, they merely respond to the aftermath and find those responsible, but the communities themselves can be empowered to expose unscrupulous practitioners.

One formerly rural youth is now an old man; possibly one of the most celebrated men on earth. His gifts to South Africa included participating in the liberation of this country from Apartheid and his dogged insistence that a country’s future lies with its children. Is it mischievous to ask what Mandela would say about these annual reminders that South Africa is a land of tragic contrasts?

The buck stops... with someone else

Who will watch out for the rural youth, any one of whom could become an athlete or an orator? If we, as a society, fail them, are we not as much of a threat as armed gunmen entering a school to prey on the most vulnerable members of society?

What solution do you suggest could prevent deaths as a result of circumcision?

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