CRL Commission to probe initiation deaths

2017-02-15 20:15
The CRL Rights Commission briefs media on hearings into the deaths of young people at initiation schools. From left: Mpiyakhe Mkholo, chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva and deputy chairperson, Prof David Luka Mosoma. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

The CRL Rights Commission briefs media on hearings into the deaths of young people at initiation schools. From left: Mpiyakhe Mkholo, chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva and deputy chairperson, Prof David Luka Mosoma. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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Johannesburg - CRL Rights Commission will establish the reliability of statistics released by initiation schools as part of an investigation into the deaths of initiates in six provinces.

Young men were dying and being buried in the mountains and it was not clear whether this was being reported, an interim investigation by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) had established.

“We need these parents to come and tell their stories. Some mothers only discover when the other young men are returning from the mountain that their children are not coming back,” commissioner Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva told reporters in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

There were unreported suicides, botched initiations, and amputations.

A total of 251 young men had died during the initiation season in six provinces the past three years. The Eastern Cape accounted for the most deaths. These numbers were alarming, Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said.

“Legally, culturally, and constitutionally it is unacceptable. People have a right to life and we are going to be screaming very loud for their right to life and their right to their cultural rights,” she said.

In some cases young men were being abducted and forced into initiation schools. They were only found after their parents reported them missing. She asked for more support from authorities.

“These are people who are in the prime of their lives, who have their whole future in front of them and they are dying consistently in the middle of nowhere. The numbers are telling us there isn’t a plan.

“The problem needs to be solved urgently; we cannot have any more of this. The worst part is most of us are quiet about this.”

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva stressed that the investigation was not an attack on culture, but that it was aimed at protecting a cultural practice which had been hijacked to make money.

“It's become an instrument of death, instead of being an instrument that produces young men who are socialised to become defenders of community values and nation-building," said Professor David Luka Mosoma, the deputy CRL chairperson.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva said the investigation would look into fast-tracking post-mortem reports that had been outstanding for five years, ensure that inquests were reported and finalised, probe the causes of deaths, the reasons for botched circumcisions, and determine who should be held accountable.

The commission would begin its investigation in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, the Free State, the Western Cape, and Mpumalanga, in March.

It hoped to complete its work before the start of the next initiation season in May.

Read more on:    culture  |  initiation  |  health

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