Johannesburg – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs began public hearings into the Customary Initiation Bill in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape on Monday. The people of Port Elizabeth pleaded with Parliament and government to safeguard circumcision and keep medical doctors far away from traditional initiation.
A traditional nurse, Mr Mongezi Hoyi, said he was a proud practitioner of culture, including traditional circumcision. “The responsibility of Parliament is to help sustain our traditions. The involvement of doctors here is unwarranted and once that happens it is no longer a tradition,” Mr Hoyi said. He suspected that the drafters of the bill did not practice initiation. “Government must help us preserve our tradition.”
An Ingcibi, Mr Zukile Bangani, said he objected to a situation where a doctor will be in attendance when practising the custom. “We know what we are doing, so what role would a doctor be playing. This is purely a traditional way of doing things,” he said.
Other issues that came up for discussion included the availability of suitable land for the practice, unregistered ngcibis, age limits for those tasked with caring for initiates, the role of the provincial act in initiation, and the role of traditional leaders.
The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Richard Mdakane, assured the people that Parliament consulted in order to enrich the bill. “We not imposing the bill on you; this is just a beginning. We will work on this bill. Initiation is a beautiful tradition, and we are aware that there are no challenges in this side of the country, but there are challenges,” Mr Mdakane said.
“Tradition should be exciting, celebrated and joyous. Our tradition has been hijacked by rogue elements. We want to know what must we do as Members of Parliament. Legislation-making is our responsibility in Parliament, but we must do it with people and get their input and views,” he said.
Another Ingcibi, Mr Fukile Tsibani, sought clarity on aspects of the Bill, including service charges and the role of the principal of an initiation school. “Service charges are for hospital; what service charges would there be in the bushes?,” he asked.
Mr Tsibani said that, where deaths occur, these people should come to areas where deaths do not occur to be trained properly. “Too much interference will make us not know our culture,” he said.
The committee is scheduled to continue with public hearings in Mthatha on today.