JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Five people have appeared in court in a South African province where bungled traditional initiation rites killed 30 young men and landed almost 300 more in hospital, police said Tuesday.
"Five people were arrested all over the province. The suspects have appeared in court," said police spokeswoman for the Eastern Cape province Sibongile Soci.
Health authorities in the country's rural southern province on Sunday said 293 youths were undergoing hospital treatment for dehydration, gangrene and septic wounds.
Besides the deaths, some had lost genitals in botched circumcisions during the rites of passage into manhood that started in May.
Police arrested the five after investigating cases that contravened the country's circumcision laws.
These included murder, unlawful circumcision and assault, Soci told AFP.
Teenagers from ethnic Xhosa, Sotho and Ndebele groups typically spend around a month in secluded bush or mountains areas for their initiation to manhood.
This includes a circumcision as well as lessons on masculine courage and discipline.
Traditional surgeons perform the procedure in the bush, sometimes with unsterilised instruments.
In May around 34 other deaths in two other provinces were reported.
The fatal rituals have raised outcry among political parties and rights groups, who call for better training of traditional surgeons and more government controls over the initiations.