Where men can go for initiation in the Western Cape

2015-07-03 17:05

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Cape Town – A portion of land in the Table Mountain Reserve has been identified for initiating Cape Town boys, but its location cannot yet be revealed, the Western Cape ANC Youth League said on Friday.

“We have researched with regards to the land we want available and will be communicating what exactly that research is next week,”  spokesperson Siyabulela Tom told News24.

He said he was not yet at liberty to disclose any more details around their request to use the national park and heritage site for initiation purposes. He had been asked about the site size needed and how many initiates needed to be accommodated.

“It can’t be normal that we just continue to practice these traditions along railway lines and highways. We are going to rectify it.”

On Thursday, Tom announced a portion of Table Mountain should be made available as there was a shortage of suitable land in the province. 

At the time, Table Mountain spokesperson Merle Collins said they had not received a formal request and would have to investigate the feasibility of initiates on the sites, given the conservation mandate.

There are 25 registered initiation sites in the Western Cape, according to the provincial cultural affairs department:

Provincial cultural affairs department spokesperson Tania Colyn said eight of these were in the Cape Metro – two each in Khayelitsha and Philippi and one each in Langa, Mfuleni, Delft and Driftsands Nature Reserve.

Asked whether there was a shortage of sites, she said: “We are unfortunately not in a position to make that judgement. Our department’s mandate with regards to initiations is to ensure the safety of initiates at registered sites.”

“We can only advise and give support to registered sites to ensure initiates are safely guided on the journey.” 

Social status

Initiation involves certain rituals, including male circumcision, to mark a rite of passage to becoming a man.

According to a 2010 Cultural, Linguistics, Religious Rights Commission public hearings report, initiation conferred the right to participate in clan and family decision making; share in community privileges, duties and responsibilities and, in many instances, to take a wife and raise a family.

Public hearing participants complained there was often inadequate spaces for initiation, particularly in urban areas, and frequently no space for seclusion.

An overwhelming number of News24 readers responded that they were not in favour of the ANC Youth League’s proposal. Their main concern seemed to be the potential environmental impact.

Reader Rob Gunning added it would not be fair to have portions of the mountain set aside for specific groups of people and doing so would create animosity.

On the other end of the argument, were a select few who were in favour.


Elaine Cazalet said she was not against the idea if the land remained first and foremost a conservation area. She believed an initiation school should honour and abide by certain contractual conditions.

Wholeheartedly supporting the idea, Zuziwe Mahloko said culture and tradition was losing its value.

Jacques de Villiers thought “it was a really wonderful idea” because it presented an opportunity to explain certain cultures to tourists.

Chief Eric Galada, who is a provincial initiation site inspector, said there was definitely consideration for the environment and certain measures were taken during the winter and summer initiation seasons to minimise the impact.

Read more on:    ancyl  |  cape town  |  initiation

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