Recetly thousands of Mapulana children returned back from their bush intiation. Below we try to unpack the difference between Mapulana and other tribe's circumcision, not initiation.
In Bushbuckridge (Mpumalanga) news of initiate deaths are met with skeptism and lack of understanding. This community has been initiating its offspring for generations but they still have to report their first casualty at the hands of school minders. Apparently it is safe to assume that initiates used to die back in the days as a result of diseases and other unforeseen circumstances like as a result of power struggles that happen between school minders. It is on record in this community here that every person who can run an initiation school can effectively use the science of lightning and thunder to send a message to his rival that he will discredit his name by killing all his initiates. Thus, when rain starts in winter and there is lightning, there is a strong possibility that some of the residents here can pinpoint the source of the rain, the thunderstorm and the reasons behind the winter rain.
Thus, it is safe to say that the community here is very conscious of their culture and tradition. They protect it like vultures. Interesting enough, their initiates never die at the school even though they go through the same procedure as everyone else from the Eastern Cape to KwaNdebele. The only difference being that school minders and initiates in Bushbuckridge are camera shy. They don't allow cameras or the press into the initiation school premises. Never.
To boys around this area as well being a man involves undergoing cultural rituals which involve initiation. The one difference with the way it is done here is that recently most parents opt to take their boys to hospitals for the circumcision a year before their initiation. They have come to accept that initiation is not wholly about circumcision but cultural etiquette, morality, responsibility and the readiness to be a man, in all respects.
But as they will tell you, even those who go to the bush after leaving their foreskins at hospitals do not escape the cut, though it is plainly ceremonial. The boys who went to the hospital first and those who lost their foreskins at the bush do come back the same, and most notably behave the same because they have been initiated the same, which is really what is important.
Reports of initiate deaths and mutilations are received with surprise by the culturally conscious community of Bushbuckridge because for them if only culture evolved with the changing times, there wouldn't be any reason for the initiates to die or lose their penises. Clearly if an initiate accidentally loses his penis because of a careless bush surgeon that says a lot about the commercialization of the school whereby people without skills have infiltrated the institution for personal enrichment.
If initiates are mutilated because culture vultures in the Eastern Cape insist on using a spear to circumcise the boys instead of something that replaced a spear (not a gun) then culture is not to blame but misled practitioners of such a culture need to account for misrepresenting it.
Understandably, Abraham in the Bible used a piece of stone to cut the foreskin of Isaac because arguably he lived in the Stone Age. The Jews of today do not use stones like their great grandfather but what civilization provided with its metamorphosis. So are the bush surgeons in Bushbuckridge. They realized a time ago that their culture was to valuable to be made a scapegoat of moneyhungry individuals and primitivity.
Simply put, the only way to stop the annual deaths is for the Eastern Cape government to come up with legislation that clearly outlaws a spear as a tool of circumcision. For all that is known it will never be as sharp as a scalpel or an Okapi knife.
The practise of initiation faces a real challenge, adapt or die. Interesting enough the culture vultures of Bushbuckridge have already made that decision. Bushbuckridge is a welcome relief in the whole cultural confusion and it can only serve all ethnic groups in South African if they can initiate (no pun intended) a fact finding mission to Bushbuckridge and learn from people who have been preserving the practise for many years, with a clean slate nogal. If a boy has to be intiated inorder to be considered a man, at least that journey has to be safe to be taken.