Rituals on death roads?

2012-01-20 00:00

AFRICAN rituals could help curb road carnage and need to be practised at accident spots.

This proposal of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) focused on the ukuvala umkhokha (stopping the recurrence of accidents) and the ukulanda (uniting the spirit of the deceased with the body).

Spokesperson Dumisani Mthalane announced it following the release of the 2011/2012 road deaths report by the Transport Department earlier this week.

Mthalane said Sanco believes black people and Africans in particular have neglected a key component of dealing with the living dead, “the spirit and soul of people dying our roads”.

“Let us go back to our roots,” Mthalane suggested.

Sanco’s call comes shortly after South Africans Against Drunk Driving claimed that the Transport Department had ordered the removal of roadside crosses at accident spots placed in remembrance of crash victims.

The department has, on the one hand, said they’re illegal and a potential hazard, and on the other, requested bereaved families to consult with them before erecting them.

KZN provincial Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said the department was open to consulting people in KwaZulu-Natal on how to handle the issue.

Meanwhile, Sanco believes that there are African traditional and cultural ways that were “used by our forefathers to deal with issues such as accidents — like ukuvala umkhokha”.

“[They are] rituals performed by those entrusted with powers to communicate with the spirits to contain bad luck or a recurrence of tragic events …

“We ask blacks, Africans, in particular, to revive the ritual of ukulanda or ho la ta,” Mthalane said.

He said Sanco had already consulted some authorities, organisatons and traditional leaders and hopes to launch its campaign before the Easter holidays.

National Transport Department spokesperson Logan Maistry welcomed the proposal and appealed to Sanco to formally lodge it before the department “as road safety is everybody’s responsibility”.

The proposal was also welcomed by Sazi Mhlongo, the chairperson of the SA Traditional Healers Association (Satha), who described it as “a positive route towards resolving road carnage”.

“In the past, the Department of Transport was organising the siyabakhumbula [we remember them] ceremonies, which were held on roadsides.”

Crosses were put up in remembrance of people who died at the various spots, Mhlongo said.

“We, as traditional healers, believe that their spirits must be removed from the roads as well,” he added.

He likened this to the ritual performed at Vlak­plaas in 1995, when the spirits of those killed by the apartheid hit squads were removed.

“Similar rituals need to be performed for those who have died in road accidents,” Mhlongo said.

The report showed that at least 1 475 people died on South Africa’s roads between December 1, 2011 and January 10, this year.

KwaZulu-Natal roads saw more deaths this festive season than any other province — a total of 256 people.

That was eight more than the previous Christmas and New Year holiday period.

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