Sunday Times (Johannesburg)

18 August 2002

South Africa: Cut Me Out, Says Gospel Star

Johannesburg — GOSPEL star Lundi Tyamara has enraged traditionalists by announcing that he will not undergo the Xhosa circumcision ceremony.

But the 23-year-old star has won support for his stand from other prominent men, who revealed this week that they too had refused to submit to tradition.

They include soccer star Brian Baloyi, DJ Glen Lewis and jazz star Selaelo Selota.

Tyamara insisted this week that his lifestyle did not allow for the tradition which entails young men being circumcised and remaining in isolation with other initiates for some three weeks, at the end of which they are considered to be men.

He said was too busy earning a living to take time out for the ceremony. He also feared for his health and safety at an initiation school. He insisted that he did practise other Xhosa traditions. "I do not disrespect my culture."

Baloyi, Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper, said he sympathised with Tyamara. He revealed that he did not undergo circumcision as required in Shangaan tradition because of soccer commitments. He was already playing for the Kaizer Chiefs junior side as a teenager.

"Honestly, I never had time to go to the bush although lots of my friends in Alexandra went. But I had to make a choice between that and soccer. I chose soccer," he said.

"I feel that people have to face reality and acknowledge that some things can't be done like our elders did in the past, because of today's living conditions," he said.

Metro FM and club DJ Lewis said: "I know my father had a problem with me not going to the bush, but it went away. People are dying in the bush anyway."

Retired boxing champion Baby Jake Matlala said he had also not undergone the tradition as required in Pedi custom, but had opted for a quicker solution by going to hospital.

"I support circumcision when it's done in the hospital. The dangers that go with initiation schools have really turned us against the idea," he said.

Award-winning jazz musician and producer Selota said he too had not undergone the circumcision ceremony.

"What's the use of going to the mountain and claiming to practise a culture that is already eroded? The world has become Westernised and there is no platform to practise what you have been taught at the initiation school," he said.

Tyamara has also gathered some heavyweight detractors.

Dr Mathole Motshekga, former Gauteng premier and now head of the Kara Heritage Institute, which specialises in African culture, said there was no basis for Tyamara to refuse to undergo the tradition.

"There are basic rules of life that have to be followed and deviating from them leads to serious problems like moral degeneration.

"Our children don't go to circumcision schools, they watch American films, and that's why we have so much moral degeneration. Initiation cannot be rejected in the name of modernity," he said.

Chief Phathekile Holomisa, chairman of the organisation of traditional leaders, Contralesa, said: "It's his democratic right not to go, but he will always be considered a boy, even when he is old and grey. He will scandalise any woman he will marry because a woman cannot marry a boy," he said.

"Lundi is not a man to me, he is an inkwenkwe (young boy)," said Yfm DJ and Celebrity Big Brother housemate Thomas "Bad Boy T" Msengana, who underwent the ceremony when he was 20 in Langa township outside Cape Town.

"This is one thing we cannot afford to let go. If this dies, what else would we have? "

SABC1 continuity presenter Brian Ndevu warned Tyamara that he would have problems in future if he refused to honour the obligation.

"That could have serious consequences. This is a rite of passage to manhood for every Xhosa man," he said, adding: "By not going there you can never enter the circles of Xhosa men."

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