Nelson Mandela Bay Metro mayor Athol Trollip has caused an outcry for visiting initiation schools in Uitenhage and Motherwell where he addressed initiates.
Trollip’s visit to the initiation schools was sparked by the death of Luphelo Madela (19), who reportedly died of drug overdose at an initiation school in KwaNobuhle, a few days before he was due to graduate.
Trollip’s visit was primarily to inspect the conditions of the schools following Madela’s death. He was accompanied by his deputy, Mongameli Bobani, and a number of chiefs.
Mxolisi Dimbaza, head of the portfolio committee on health in Bhisho, said the Xhosa custom did not allow people like Trollip who did not undergo the traditional rite of passage into manhood to visit an initiation school and address abakhwetha [initiates].
“My own understanding of our own traditions and culture is that the person who gets to emabhomeni [initiation schools] is a person who is a man. The other person who can go emabhomeni is inqalathi [a young boy] and therefore inqalathi can never address men or abakhwetha.
“If Trollip has never gone to an initiation school like ourselves, he cannot go there and address abakhwetha because he does not know anything that happens there. It’s just the same thing with me, I cannot go to the initiation school of the Sotho people because I have to respect their culture even though I a man according to my culture. It is something that can never be accepted,” Dimbaza said.
He said his disapproval of Trollip’s visit to the initiation school had nothing to do with his race.
“It is not because he is white. It is simply because he has not undergone traditional circumcision the same way that we have undergone it. And also he cannot address those particular initiates.”
Mninawa Nyusile, head of the cooperative governance and traditional affairs portfolio committee, said he would ask the chairperson of the Eastern Cape house of traditional leaders, Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, and the MEC, Fikile Xasa, to hold to account whichever traditional leader of Port Elizabeth allowed Trollip to go there knowing that he did not go through the ritual.
“Because this is a problem and it undermines our culture,” said Nyusile.
“For Trollip to go there and speak in front of cameras and say he never went through the rite and did male medical circumcision is wrong. What advice would he give? What experience does he have? Even if he is a mayor he can’t go to our boys there for something he doesn’t know; it does not make sense. For him to be mayor does not mean he would have breakthrough to all issues of traditions and customs where he never performed such,” said Nyusile.
Trollip could not be reached for comment as his phone was on voicemail.