Hazing News

Tribal initiation ends in death

11/01/2007 01:02 PM – (SA)
Learner dies at initiation school
Kerry van Rensburg

Instead of celebrating his matric results on 28 December, Lunga Nocanda’s family and friends attended his funeral and mourned his tragic death resulting from complications after he attended a traditional initiation school.

The 18-year-old was a learner at Hermanus High School and was part of the 2006 matric class. He had planned to study business management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

According to media resources, another initiate was admitted to the GF Jooste hospital in Mannenberg where his septic wounds were treated. Lunga, however, died as a result of his injuries on 18 December.

Lunga was apparently attending an initiation school in Paarl and so far he is the only young man in the Western Cape known to have died as a result of a circumcision ritual this season.

Although government is in the process of setting up an initiation unit so that circumcision rituals can be controlled better, some traditional leaders continue to reject the province’s clampdown on illegal initiation schools.

The ancient Xhosa initiation custom has been highlighted in the media in recent years because unregistered surgeons, a lack of discipline and unhygienic practices have been exposed.

In 2004, Thandwa Ntshona (Cultural Services in the Western Cape) attended a meeting arranged by the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) and said: “The deaths that occur because of incompetence, mal-administration and non observance of health standards, cannot justify the call for the abolition of initiation schools.”

The post-mortem revealed that he had died of hunger, dehydration and had been beaten.

Police are still investigating the case.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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