‘Leave nothing to chance’ as initiations begin

2018-06-10 11:46

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Traditional leaders and the Eastern Cape government are determined to break last year’s record for the lowest number of initiate deaths during the winter initiation season.

Last year’s winter season saw the fewest recorded deaths in the past decade, with 11 initiates losing their lives, six of whom died in a fire at an initiation school in Qumbu.

But the death toll rose during the summer season in December, when 17 initiates died. It was also marred by controversy after the arrest of five initiates who allegedly assaulted and killed an elderly woman for “trespassing” on their turf in the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality. In the same area, other initiates rented out their traditional initiation hut to a couple to have sex.

For the winter season, which begins on Tuesday, provincial authorities say they are leaving nothing to chance.

Provincial cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam said MEC Fikile Xasa would preside over the season’s official opening at Bumbane Great Place, to which all the Eastern Cape kings and their traditional leaders had been invited.

“But our teams have already been around the province conducting awareness campaigns,” said Ngam.

“All our initiation monitoring teams in the province have their plans in place. We are also working with the SA Police Service in terms of trying to ensure they provide support through their operational plans.”

Ngam said traditional leaders, district and local municipalities, and professional nurses and doctors would form part of the monitoring teams visiting initiation schools around the province.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, provincial chair for the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, said traditional leaders would reveal their own plan on Tuesday.

“We did not rest after the summer season. We emerged from the summer season with experiences, some good and some bad. We have learnt from the challenges, which include traditional surgeons who are not properly accredited to circumcise boys, and a lack of understanding of the new act [Eastern Cape Customary Male Initiation Practice Act] to combat deaths,” Nonkonyana said.

“We must unveil a plan of action to make sure the law is respected, and that we all work together, including schools, families, traditional communities and all departments.

“We want to make sure that there are no drugs at initiation schools so that our boys – all of them – emerge the pride of their homes, their communities and the nation.”

Ngam said his department and the police would work hard to enforce the new act, which allows only boys who are older than 18 to undergo traditional initiation.

“Parents who have given consent for boys younger than 18 to undergo initiation will face the full might of the law. We have had an instance in Mdantsane where a parent was arrested for doing exactly that,” he said.

Traditional leaders have to ensure that all traditional nurses and traditional surgeons operating in their villages are properly registered, fit and experienced.

“What we have observed is that the illegal traditional surgeons and nurses are the ones who contribute to the illegal practises, such as depriving initiates of drinking water, in initiation schools. This is what leads to dehydration, which is one of the major causes of deaths in initiation schools,” Ngam said.

Parents must also see to it that their children are safe.

“Fathers must not outsource the initiation of their children. They should stay there in the bushes with their children until they have healed,” said Ngam.

Prince Abongile Ngozi, spokesperson for the youth wing of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA in the Eastern Cape, said parents must ensure their children went to recognised and legal initiation schools.

“At the end of the day, it is young people, the future of this country, who die as result of illegal initiation,” he said.

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