Initiate deaths blamed on witchcraft

Johannesburg - The office of King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele tribe has blamed the deaths of 28 initiates in Mpumalanga's highveld area on witchcraft.

Ndzundza Tribal Authority (NTA) spokesperson Prince Dumisani Mahlangu told a Sapa correspondent this week the number of deaths was unusually high.

"These deaths are not normal, kune buloyi la [there is witchcraft here]," said Mahlangu, who was also critical of the House of Traditional Leaders (HTL).

King Mabhoko III has been blamed for three deaths in Limpopo and 28 in Mpumalanga, where initiation schools were allegedly being illegally run with his permission.

Altogether six deaths have been reported in Limpopo. Three were at initiation schools approved by another Ndebele traditional leader, Kgoshi PJ Mahlangu.

Prince Mahlangu accused Mpumalanga HTL chairperson Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena of speaking "nonsense" to the media.

"I read the things written in the newspapers. Mokoena ukhuluma amanyala [Mokoena is speaking nonsense]," said Mahlangu.

He said the NTA was investigating the deaths and had already established some of the causes.

"Some boys went to ingoma [initiation schools] without being screened for any sickness, which may place them in danger," Mahlangu said.

"We also found out that some of the permits used for some schools were copies of originals issued to other initiation schools," he said.

Most of the fatalities occurred in Siyabuswa, KwaMhlanga, Verena, Kwaggafontein, Middelburg, Bethal, Belfast and Evander - all districts of Nkangala in Mpumalanga.

After a meeting between the HTL and the health department on Friday, department MEC Candith Mashego-Dlamini told journalists that 134 permits were issued under King Mabhoko III, including for those schools where there were fatalities.

"A total of 134 traditional leaders were authorised by King Mabhoko III to conduct ingoma," said Mashego-Dlamini.

"However, we noted with concern that there are traditional leaders who are not accountable to King Mabhoko III, yet are currently conducting ingoma."

Dlamini said King Mabhoko III had agreed to abide by compliance issues on conducting ritual circumcision.

"Some of the compliance agreed upon is pre-screening of initiates for HIV, TB, BP, glucose and other health problems... ensuring that initiation schools are approved and certified by the king to conduct ingoma, and ensuring that there is consent from parents or guardians," said Mashego-Dlamini.

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