An Eastern Cape initiate died and four others were seriously injured after allegedly being beaten for failing to pay a R100 circumcision fee.
The initiates from Mfundweni village, Qhokama in Ngqeleni allegedly endured an eight-hour beating with sticks at an illegal initiation school on Saturday.
It is alleged the traditional surgeon and two assistants were responsible for the assault. They have since been arrested.
The initiates – aged between 14 and 17 – were taken to hospital the next morning with head and body injuries.
One of the boys, 17-year-old Amahle Mhlekude, died from his injuries at the Nelson Mandela Central Hospital in Mthatha yesterday.
The initiate death toll for the winter season in the Eastern Cape now stands at 24.
The initiates who survived Saturday’s attacks were admitted to Mthatha Regional Hospital, where they spoke of their ordeal. They alleged they were assaulted for failing to pay the traditional surgeon to conduct the circumcision procedure.
“He came back, apparently drunk, at about 6pm on Saturday and asked when we were paying. But we had before that agreed to pay him after graduating from the initiation school as our parents had no money,” said one of the initiates.
He alleged the surgeon and two other young men then assaulted them with sticks and forced other initiates to join in the beating. “The three men would beat us until they were tired. They had smoke breaks in between the beating session. We cried for help but no help came; instead, more beatings.”
The initiates alleged they were forced to sing instead of screaming. They were also allegedly burnt with hot, melted plastic on their buttocks and arms.
The boys are underage and did not have permission from their parents to be circumcised. “We stole chickens and went to the traditional surgeon for circumcision. Arrangement was made with him to pay the R100 circumcision fee later,” said another initiate.
They said the beatings stopped at about 4am on Sunday when Amahle collapsed.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said the suspects, aged between 18 and 20, were to appear at the Ngqeleni Magistrate’s Court today. They faced charges of murder and assault.
When the Daily Dispatch arrived at hospital, the parents were praying for their sons. “We want the attackers to be convicted for life,” said one mother.
Senior government and traditional leaders have lashed out at the abuse of initiates following the deaths of two initiates last week. They were allegedly assaulted by their traditional surgeons and nurses in Mthatha and Libode.