BE A MAN! To Become Men, Zulu Boys Were Abducted For Circumcision Rites That Some Never Survived

Around The World

Sept 2, 2020

The passage into manhood is something that is taken very seriously in many cultures around the world. For the Zulu people of South Africa, however, this tradition is a make or break affair for young boys.


The Zulus practice what they call Ulwaluko, a traditional circumcision and initiation into manhood. It is an ancient initiation rite practised mostly by the amaXhosa, however, the practice also cuts across all of South Africa.

The ritual is traditionally intended as a teaching institution, to prepare young males for the responsibilities of manhood. Therefore, initiates are called abakhwetha in isiXhosa: aba means a group, and kwetha means to learn.

The origins of circumcision are obscure. The earliest record is from ancient Egypt, 25 centuries ago. About a century later, a written record tells of a mass circumcision (120 men) and the writer’s pride that none showed pain.

Mail & Guardian

The ritual still takes this form in East Africa, where boys making the transition to men are circumcised in a public ceremony. They are expected not to flinch or cry out.

Circumcision is often done on boys but as a baby. This is not the case in South Africa as Zulu teenage boys have to undergo a bizarre circumcision rite to become men.

These boys will be abducted and then taken to a secret place that can only be accessed by elderly women who bring them food and drinks.

African Holocaust Society

They are then covered in white dust before being allowed to use sharp blades or rocks to circumcise themselves. They end up having disfigured genitals, and some even die during the process.

The wounds are normally treated and dressed using mad or animal waste and may take four months or more to heal.

Circumcision was stopped as a cultural practice by the Zulu king Shaka. He replaced it as a rite of passage with the youths’ graduation through age-grouped regiments (amabutho) of his army.

Zululand Observer

However, reactions sparked globally in 2009 when Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, recently recommended circumcision for lowering the Aids risk.

Do you think teenage boys should be made to go through this form of manhood rites?

By Ndifreke