Johannesburg - National legislation or regulations are needed to tackle the problems associated with initiations in the country, Western Cape cultural affairs MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said on Monday.
She was commenting on the recent policy on initiation of the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta).
The policy, formally known as the Draft National Policy on the Customary Practice of Initiation in South Africa, was drafted in 2011 and amended early this year. It has been sent to the nine provinces for comments.
Mbombo welcomed it. She said the death of 26 initiates in the Eastern Cape this month and hundreds more across South Africa should be seen as nothing less than a national crisis.
"As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain of those parents who have lost loved ones. Especially suffering a tragedy that could have been avoided."
She said the deaths and injuries at the schools were because of people who were not equipped to perform circumcision.
Without the recommended law, it was difficult to hold these people, and others involved, legally accountable for their actions.
"National legislation on initiation would take this policy intent a step further and give the teeth it needs to tackle this problem."
She called for regulations governing the registration of traditional surgeons to be published.
The ratio of caregivers to the number of initiates being cared for was important, as well as having a stipulated age requirement for a person to qualify as a caregiver.
She said Cogta’s policy declared that initiates should be regarded as abducted if they were found to be in an unregistered initiation school.
"Without our proposed legislation this will prove futile if the young person has been sent by their parents."
She said the creation of an offence and a penalty for the persons running an unregistered initiation school, and offences or penalties against the parents for sending their children to such schools, would assist the policy's aim.