Veil of secrecy around initiation schools to blame for deaths - NPA

2017-03-09 12:20
Luphelo Madela was found dead in his ibhoma. (City Press, file).

Luphelo Madela was found dead in his ibhoma. (City Press, file).

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Johannesburg - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has submitted that the primary causes of deaths at initiation schools across SA are a lack of aftercare and the secrecy following the initiation process by traditional surgeons and caregivers.

Speaking in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Wednesday evening, the NPA's Sibongile Mzinyathi said that most of the deaths were caused by conditions like septicaemia, hypothermia and dehydration.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Commission) is this week holding hearings on deaths at initiation schools in Gauteng.

"The main challenge we face is a reluctance of witnesses to provide information regarding the initiation," said Mzinyathi.

Mzinyathi alleged that some initiates were not allowed to drink water after they came back from the mountain, resulting in dehydration.

He explained that the veil of secrecy around the initiation process was also problematic, as many hid behind the belief that the cultural practice was sacred and should remain a secret.

For this reason, several victims did not come forward with their illnesses or speak out after initiation.

Children's rights 'paramount'

"Sacredness and secrecy are no longer an excuse when there are dead bodies up on the mountain," said the commission's chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

Mzinyathi explained that, because many of the boys were ordered to participate in the assaults of others by the instructors and older boys, they were usually reluctant to come forward.

"There are also delays, and this underscores the idea of secrecy," said Mzinyathi.

He said that this lead to lost time in investigations, as exhibits were lost, crime scenes were not visited on time; were often destroyed, and police were then unable to collect enough evidence.

Mzinyathi said that, although initiation was a constitutionally-guaranteed right, children's rights were still supreme.

"Initiation schools are an essential part of our historic culture and they should be respected in the eyes of the law; that needs to be approached with a degree of sensitivity. In as much as we want to protect the rights to the cultural practice, we must also ensure that rights of children are always paramount," said Mzinyathi.

"The deaths of initiates as a result of botched circumcisions - from both legal and unregistered initiation schools - or any harm [caused] to initiates due to conduct at the initiation school, directly infringes on the initiate's rights to dignity and life," reads a report from the NPA.

Other recommendations by the NPA include the possibility of introducing a national register of those found guilty of offences for record-keeping purposes, and an efficient monitoring process that regulates the number of initiations a traditional surgeon can perform daily.

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Read more on:    npa  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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