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A 16-year-old Mpumalanga boy has told how his 19-year-old friend was allegedly beaten to death by elders after they had escaped from an initiation school.
This was after the two were forced to attend the circumcision ceremony.
The boy from Embonisweni near KaBokweni outside White River said he and Bongani Madonsela realised they had been misled and wanted to leave, but were told it was too late.
"We were misled by our friends who asked us to accompany them to buy cigarettes. They said we had to go through the bushes to reach the shop.
"We agreed but before we knew it we were inside the initiation school," he said yesterday.
He said they asked their friends to help them find their way back home but were told they could not leave the school before completing the passage to manhood.
The boy said they sneaked out later that night in an attempt to escape.
But they were stopped by the school elders, who took them back.
They then allegedly beat the boys with sticks until they both lost consciousness.
"Madonsela died at the scene but I survived and was taken to Themba Hospital," the boy said.
The boys were part of a group of 21 at the initiation school, which started operating this year and is run by a local traditional healer, Getrude Thabethe.
Madonsela's mother, Rosilinah Bulunga, said the people who lured her son to the initiation school took advantage of her son's liking of cigarettes.
"He liked smoking. They knew that my boy would do anything for cigarettes," Bulunga said.
She said she would never have allowed her son to go to the school because she did not have money for food and other necessities required at the school.
KaBokweni police spokesperson Constable Muzi Ngomane said Madonsela's family at first did not know what had happened to him and had reported him as missing.
"It was only after his friend regained consciousness that he revealed what had happened," Ngomane said.
Police and family members went to the bush where they found Madonsela's body buried in a shallow grave.
"We are now searching for the school owner, who has gone underground," said Ngomane. He said angry residents had torched the healer's house.