Young initiate still missing, believed dead, 4 years later

2017-03-07 19:12
(File photo:Leon Sadiki/Citypress)

(File photo:Leon Sadiki/Citypress)

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Johannesburg – Four years after he disappeared at an initiation school, a teenage boy is still missing and believed to have been beaten to death, a probe into the cultural practice heard on Tuesday.

The boy, Eric, was harassed at school and was not allowed to use the toilet because he was "not a man," his aunt, who did not want to be named, told the CRL Rights Commission in Johannesburg.

He was 16 and living with his aunt when he disappeared in June 2013.  She said her family did not practice initiation. She received death threats and no help from the police during her efforts to find him.

After he disappeared, she approached someone she knew was linked to the initiation schools. He brought Eric back, but he ran back to the school in December that year.

“He came back quite unwell. Because he was taken out before the end of the process, he wanted to go back and finish the cultural practice,” she said through tears, as commissioner Pumla Madiba consoled her.

In January 2014, one of the boy's friends told police that Eric had died. He alleged the boy was beaten to death for not knowing the initiation songs.

The friend, who was at the initiation school at the time, told the aunt that they buried Eric and several other boys and made fires on top of their makeshift graves in order to conceal them.

A station commander in Orange Farm was handed the case in 2013. Despite this there was no investigation, search, or inquest. No statement was taken and the family had no case number, even though a missing person’s case was opened.

She said police had not arrested anyone. When she went to enquire about the progress of the case, an Orange Farm police officer told her the young man's body had been dumped at a military camp.

The same policeman told her to stop pursuing the matter, otherwise a lot of people were going to die, she said. She never returned to the police station.

She said she had received threats from neighbours for trying to find her nephew.

"As a family, we have been waiting for all these years to make sense of what happened," she said.

The family wants the commission to help them with counselling and facilitate the investigation of the case in order to find and properly bury the young man.

The CRL Rights Commission on Tuesday started the Gauteng leg of hearings into the deaths of initiates, botched circumcisions, traditional practitioners, and assaults at initiation schools.

It aims to hold hearings across the country to determine the causes of the high number of deaths at the schools.

The commission said a total of 251 initiation deaths had occurred countrywide over the past three years.

Read more on:    culture  |  initiation

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