Speak out against this slaughter

WE LIVE in interesting and difficult times when many of us will defend the indefensible.

I fully agreed with Mondli Makhanya of the Sunday Times when he wrote about what we do in the name of culture.

Yes, indeed, young Xhosa boys are sent to these initiation schools to die when in fact we need them because we are in a difficult period of rebuilding our country, which was destroyed by that obnoxious and evil system of apartheid.

It is very easy to condemn, vilify and label Makhanya as being "Eurocentric" or a "confused" black man who does not know his culture or is out to please his "paymasters".

Doing so would be like killing the messenger without substantively speaking to the issue he raises which, in simple terms, is: "Why do we allow young people to die in the name of culture?"

Makhanya's piece (published on June 20) forces us to reflect deeply on what it means to be a man in this day and age. Is it enough to define our manhood as just being physiological, physical and or mechanical?

Shouldn't we find forms of answering the question of what it means to be a man other than subjecting innocent boys to a cruel, humiliating and barbaric form of proving their so-called "manhood"?

Should we limit or narrow our definition of what makes us men? I am convinced that we are not men because of our physique only.

There is much more that should define us as men, such as being caring for those who we profess to love and being supportive of other men when they face their moments of weakness.

Culture has never been static but evolves.

I wonder why this culture is made out to be so sacrosanct when all it does is send kids to unnecessary, avoidable deaths.

Patriarchy and its toxic attendant consequences are at the root of this antiquated practice. It is an indictment on all of us that 16 years into our democracy we still allow young boys to die in the name of culture and we look the other way shouting: "If you attack my culture you are doing so because you are a racist, a colonised and a confused African without roots."

It is about time that as black men we stood up, questioned and condemned practices that do nothing to enhance and advance us as a people.

If we keep quiet now our kids will ask us that emotionally draining question: "Why did you not speak out when it mattered?"

Xhosa men should speak now and face the consequences of being marginalised, vilified and condemned by their own.

Doing otherwise would be a disservice to those young souls who continue to die unnecessarily.

This sad saga reminds me of the profound words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, who said: "When the Nazis came for the communists I remained silent, I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats I remained silent, I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists I did not speak out, I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews I remained silent, I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out."

What is your excuse for keeping silent when boys die in the name of culture?