Initiation rituals in South Africa tied to 60 deaths

JOHANNESBURG — Initiation ceremonies in South Africa have led to the deaths of 60 young men and the hospitalization of hundreds since May, sparking concern from officials about regulations surrounding a national tradition that determines when a boy becomes a man.

The most recent deaths in the Eastern Cape province occurred primarily at illegal “initiation schools” set up for financial benefits, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

‘‘This practice has been there for ages and was performed by traditional leaders in a very responsible manner,’’ Motsoaledi told state TV this week. ‘‘But now it has turned into a commercial enterprise .’’


Thirty initiates have died within the month and 300 have also been hospitalized, a government health spokesman said. Ten of those young men were rescued with badly scarred genitals from botched circumcisions while the others were hospitalized for dehydration and various wounds.

Associated Press