Why 22-year-old ‘boys’ can stab 22-year-old ‘men’ in the Eastern Cape

A scene from 'Inxeba - The Wound'. Picture: Supplied / ANA

A scene from 'Inxeba - The Wound'. Picture: Supplied / ANA

Even the police observe the staunch Xhosa distinction of what separates men from boys.

An SAPS press release about a 22-year-old “man” getting stabbed to death in a fight with a 22-year-old “boy” after he apparently called him by his name has left Twitter users both bemused and amused.

Those who are familiar with the tenets of Xhosa culture have offered the explanation for how two people of the same age can’t both just be “men”.

A male of Xhosa descent who has not undergone initiation and circumcision is still considered a boy by cultural standards, and such males are often still referred to as boys, despite their age.

As such, the Eastern Cape police were probably merely observing the culture and customs of the area with their wording, probably without even giving it much thought.

In addition, according to Xhosa culture, a male who has not gone through initiation to become a man is not allowed to say the name of one who has gone through the tradition.

Police spokesperson Captain Jackson Manatha said both the suspect and the deceased were enjoying themselves on Sunday, December 9, 2018, at about 9.50pm in Elliotdale.

“A quarrel arose when the suspect, who is still a boy, called the deceased by his name. The suspect then drew his knife and fatally stabbed the deceased on his upper body. He then ran away from the scene. Elliotdale police detectives traced and arrested him on Monday, 10 December 2018.

“The deceased has been identified as Mpho July, aged 22. The suspect will appear before the Elliotdale Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, 12 December 2018 on a murder charge.”

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