Mpumalanga initiate deaths queried

2013-06-02 10:00

Mpumalanga’s provincial government has been accused of hiding more initiate deaths.

Congress of the People legislature member Zale Madonsela told a sitting of the house on Tuesday that 36 initiates had died in the province.

This is contrary to the published figure of 28.

When Madonsela put the figure of 36 deaths to the legislature, neither the provincial department of health nor corporative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) officials denied it.

They also did not categorically deny the figure when approached for comment by City Press.

Madonsela told City Press: “I’ve been in contact with people in the community and they’ve been updating me on a regular basis.

I think there’s a cover-up of some kind and that’s why statistics were no longer released.

“I wanted to know when arrests are going to be made in light of the increasing deaths.”

A senior ANC legislature member, who asked to remain anonymous, said officials had been told not to publicly reveal any more information about initiation deaths.

“It may appear that there’s a clampdown on information,” he said.

The last statistics released by officials and the police, on May 24, put initiation deaths in Mpumalanga at 28. Postmortem results showed the young men died of haemorrhage, hypothermia and “unnatural causes”.

The young men died while undergoing the province’s four-yearly Ndebele ingoma ritual.

Across the border in Limpopo, six Ndebele initiates died in the Greater Sekhukhune district area.

Mpumalanga’s Cogta spokesperson, Simphiwe Kunene, said he could neither confirm nor deny the figure presented by Madonsela.

Ronnie Masilela, a spokesperson for the province’s department of health, said: “I’m not saying there are no deaths, but from where we stand, we don’t know about them. All we can confirm is that our interventions are bearing fruit.”

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi said he was also not aware of any more deaths. It is possible that more deaths are being kept under wraps because, in Ndebele culture, it is taboo to talk about young men who die while the eight-week ritual is ongoing.

This would not explain why earlier deaths were made public though.

Mpumalanga police are investigating murder cases but have not arrested anyone.

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