Covid-19 separates men from boys as winter circumcisions banned

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Covid-19 separates men from boys as winter circumcisions banned

Traditional leaders are not happy with government’s decision, saying they were not consulted

Journalist
Winter's initiates will have to wait until next year or the summer season to undergo their passage to manhood.
WAITING GAME Winter's initiates will have to wait until next year or the summer season to undergo their passage to manhood.
Image: AFP/Mujahid Safodien

Thousands of boys will have to wait until next year or the summer season to undergo the rite to manhood.

This after traditional circumcision was banned for the upcoming winter season, raising the ire of traditional leaders.

This week, the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) issued a directive to provinces that no boys will be allowed to be circumcised due to the nationwide lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic.

However, traditional leaders believe that, by June, the lockdown will be lifted and the pandemic under control.

Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairperson Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana confirmed the government’s decision to Times Select. He expressed shock that the ban had been implemented without consultation.

“We told the government that it would not be appropriate for us to endorse their decision without consulting the communities which would be directly affected by such a decision.

“As the house of traditional leadership in the province we consulted our members last week. They are consulting the communities and will provide feedback soon,” Nonkonyana said.

He is expected to receive information from all structures by April 17. A report on the house’s position will be submitted to the provincial government at the end of April.

“The government is inclined to say that we should not have initiation in 2020, but as the house we are unable to support that without proper consultation with the communities concerned,” he said.

Eastern Cape Cogta spokesperson Mamnkeli Ngam confirmed that government had taken a decision to ban circumcision.

Health and traditional circumcision experts supported government’s decision, saying any relaxation of the regulations after the lockdown could be catastrophic for traditional circumcision.

Urologist Dr Ntuthuzelo Lusawana said it was the most advisable thing to do. “June is too close after the lockdown. The ban will eliminate any exposure, especially with social distancing not being observed at circumcision schools. There are too many risks, as people visiting these sites will not be screened to see if they are free of the virus.”

Circumcision expert Zola Tshayana agreed: “The country will need at least three months before everything goes back to normal. We are in a crisis already. Government and our health system cannot overburden itself with circumcision. Boys must wait for next year if they do not want to use the summer season.”

Takuwani Riime Men's Movement national spokesperson Ntando Yola said his movement supported the move.

“We continue to call on all role players to effectively engage during this time and ensure we do not see what we’ve been seeing in past seasons,” he said.

Gauteng Men’s Forum chairperson Bongani Ngomane said his organisation supported government's decision, “especially during winter, due to Covid-19".

He added that the forum was of the view that many boys’ lives would be at risk if they were circumcised in winter.

During the 2018 summer circumcision, 28 boys died at Eastern Cape circumcision schools.

Last week, Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said the ban was to prevent the transmission of the virus and save lives.

“We have had discussions about how we are dealing with the winter and summer traditional circumcision seasons. Our view is that we must suspend the winter and summer seasons. The 21 days is not going to eradicate Covid-19 — it will remain with us for some time,” he said.

“This issue of boys dying in initiation schools is part of gender-based violence — it’s men who are careless about the life of young people. We cannot allow it to go on. We are putting a stop to it. We have got to work together with traditional leaders.

“We are appealing to everyone to know that it is about protecting people’s lives, not us being selfish. For now, let us protect these boys so they are not infected,” he said.