A nine-year-old pupil in Eastwood, Pietermaritzburg was circumcised by "mistake" by a family health programme at his school. The family has reported the matter to the police.
The Grade 3 pupil from Panorama Primary underwent a medical circumcision without his mother's consent and it was not in accordance with Xhosa tradition.
"I did not approve of the procedure," said the child's aunt and guardian.
She said the boy brought a consent form, but she did not sign it because the mother did not approve.
"I knew of the incident when the [health programme] recruiters came knocking at my door. They told me the child has been circumcised by mistake. I was confused because I didn't submit the consent form to the school. They apologised for the incident, but still I didn't understand," the guardian said.
The Department of Health promotes male medical circumcision. It is a safe procedure.
Three large clinical trials and many other studies have shown that heterosexual men who are circumcised have a much lower risk of contracting HIV. Department of Health guidelines state that children under 18 must have parental or guardian consent. If the child is older than 16, he too must agree to the process. The problems, in this case, were that the child was very young and that the guardian did not consent.
"Circumcision is a sensitive and treasured culture for the Xhosa nation," said the guardian. "This procedure has ruined the child's manhood ... Medical circumcision is not an option unless the parents decide to do it ... What they have done can't be reversed."
Colonel Thembeka Mbhele of the KwaZulu-Natal police confirmed that a case of unlawful circumcision was opened at the Mountain Rise police station.
Society for Family Health country director Miriam Mhazo said the organisation was aware of the incident and sincerely regretted what happened. Mhazo said the doctor and the specific team involved had been suspended "while we are continuing with investigations".
"We are working with the UMgungundlovu District Department of Health ... to resolve this matter and ensure that it does not happen again. The District Department of Health is working with the guardian directly and we are waiting for a date to meet with the parents," said Mhazo.
Spokesperson for the Department of Health Ncumisa Mafunda said that although preliminary evidence showed that none of the people involved in the matter were employed by the department, but by an NGO, the department has nevertheless instituted an inquiry into the matter.
Spokesperson for the Department of Education Kwazi Mthethwa said the department has not received a formal complaint.
"We respect the culture of our [pupils] and [teachers]. In a democratic country, everyone has the right of belonging. However, we cannot base our decision on a media report. We would have to receive information from both parties. We are in no position to judge at the moment."