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'Umgidi' celebration welcomes father-and-son who went through initiation together

Linda Ngqweqe, 58, father of seven and grandfather of four joined other initiates – some young enough to be their grandchildren – undergoing circumcision rites in Mount Fletcher.
THE RITE THING TO DO: Linda Ngqweqe, 58, father of seven and grandfather of four joined other initiates – some young enough to be their grandchildren – undergoing circumcision rites in Mount Fletcher.

A married grandfather of four and his 18-year-old son were some of thousands of boys who underwent the traditional circumcision rite in the Eastern Cape during the summer season.

Linda Ngqweqe, 58, was one of the 82 AmaHlubi boys who underwent the rite from November 23 and graduated on Friday at Moroka village near Mount Fletcher.

Ngqweqe cheerfully sang at the top of his voice as they arrived home at Moroka village, painted in blood-red ochre and half-naked before they were later adorned in colourful traditional blankets during their homecoming ceremony.

Some of Ngqweqe’s seven children experienced their father go to the mountain a boy and return a man — when they joined hundreds of villagers in welcoming the returning men. 

However, his wife, Dineo, could not attend the ceremony as AmaHlubi custom forbids wives from attending their husbands’ umgidi

Ngqweqe said it did not bother him that he underwent the rite as an older man. 

“Now I am a real man, a man among men. I am thrilled.

“Nobody will question my prestige as a man, I am a complete man and culturally compliant. I now see things in a different perspective,” he said.

One of the reasons he had decided to undergo the rite, he said, was because during his son Sihle’s tradition circumcision in 2013, he had not been not allowed at his initiation lodge or to lead festivities during his homecoming ceremony.

When his youngest son, Thando, 18, underwent the rite in November 2019, he knew he also had to finally get circumcised as well.

“Two days after Thando went to the mountain, I underwent the rite.

“Thando going to the mountain served as the last reminder for me to eventually undergo the rite. I will now die a circumcised man,” he said.

When he first told his wife of his plans to undergo the rite, he said she had initially discouraged him but his children had encouraged him to do it. 

“She could not understand the fuss that at my mature age I wanted to do something that I could have done 40 years ago.

“But I convinced her and she eventually agreed,” he said with a smile.

The facilitator or usosuthu of the initiation, Mthuthuzeli Jonas, 55, said he had been honoured that his son, Sosule Jonas, 18, was part of Ngqweqe’s regiment.

“Though he was their fellow initiate, they all showed a great respect and called him Tata, with traditional older nurses calling him by his clan name, Rhadebe.

“This is sign that they will respect older people in the community,” Jonas said.

Chief traditional nurse Ndumiso Maya, 35, said Ngqweqe had obeyed all the laws and had not demanded special treatment.

The event was also attended by Man and Boy Foundation executive director Nkululeko Nxesi, who applauded the AmaHlubi as one of the best nations in the country when it came to practising safe initiations, with zero deaths and injuries reported.

Also in Ngqweqe’s group was a 47-year-old initiate who is originally from KwaZulu-Natal but has been working in Mount Fletcher for eight years.

This is not the first time older men have undergone the rite.

In 2011, a respected archbishop and a sub-headman in Ngqeleni had in their 60s decided to be traditionally circumcised.

In 2008, a then 37-year-old Fikile Mbalula was abducted and forcefully taken to the bush.

During the 2019-20 summer season 28 initiates died in the Eastern Cape.


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