Why young men in South Africa are dying
On Sunday, South African officials announced 30 dead boys. In May, at least 27 died.
And between 2008 and 2012, 323 boys turned up dead in the Eastern Cape province alone, according to the Mail and Guardian.
What's killing so many young men in South Africa?
The short answer: botched circumcisions.
In an interview with South African newspaper The Times, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that too many boys are dying at the hands of traditional surgeons operating initiation schools, where tens of thousands of young men go for ritual circumcisions every year.
Known locally as "ingoma," the ritual is shrouded in secrecy and performed in the bush, where boys also undergo several survival tests. Common with ethnic Xhosas, Sothos and Ndebeles, the practice was once described by Nelson Mandela as a "kind of spiritual preparation for the trials of manhood."
But according to Motsoaledi, the rite of passage is increasingly being exploited by opportunistic "culturepreneurs" operating illegal schools that employ unsafe practices -- and, in some cases, brutally assault their young initiates or deny them food or water. With the recent 30 deaths, which occured in the Eastern Cape province, there are also allegations that the dead boys may have been beaten and burnt with cigarettes.
Another 300 boys have also been recently hospitalized and the results of their botched circumcisions are horrific. Also speaking to The Times, Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said some of the badly-injured boys have lost the tips of their penises; others have genitals that are gangrenous, resemble "burnt-out sausages" or are missing altogether.
In May this year, South African president Jacob Zuma condemned the "massive and unnecessary loss of young life at the hands of those who are supposed to nurture and protect them."
“It cannot be acceptable that every time young men reach this crucial time in their development, their lives are culled in the most painful of ways, in the care of circumcision schools,” Zuma said in a statement.
Jennifer Yang is the Star’s global health reporter. She previously worked as a general assignment reporter and won a NNA in 2011 for her explanatory piece on the Chilean mining disaster. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar