Not enough outrage about initiate deaths - CRL

2017-03-08 22:42


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Johannesburg - South Africans are not angry enough about the growing number of deaths at initiation schools across the country, the CRL Rights Commission said on Wednesday.

“The resolve is not there to save lives of initiates. This is untenable. The outrage is not there, the country is not angry enough,” commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xalavu said.

This was despite constant reports of abductions of young men and their deaths at illegal initiation schools.

“Shouldn’t the state be unleashing all its resources, including the police and the army, so that criminals can see that the state means business?” she asked.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities is this week holding hearings on the deaths at initiation schools in Gauteng.

Vaal Community Council member Dipuo Moholane told the commission that illegal schools were cropping up in the area. Children were being abducted and turned into drug addicts.

“Out of these illegal initiation schools, we get gangsters coming out of them. We see parents leaving their houses because they are scared of these children who have become monsters in their own homes. The community has been terrorised,” she said.

People had lost faith in the police and local government and they wanted the schools to be suspended and cleaned up.

She said 12 houses and five shacks, where these gangsters reportedly lived, had been set alight. Residents had assaulted suspected culprits and chased them away, she said.

The culture of initiation was being allowed to deteriorate and some were using it to make money.

‘Sardine surrounded by sharks’

“That is why you find that children have been abducted. There’s a fee connected to the abduction. So the people that are illegally doing initiation schools are actually criminals.”

Mkhwanazi-Xalavu said the state’s failure to regulate the practice had led to people taking advantage of the system.

“The state has allowed this thing to grow and fester. The state must stop saying they will abolish this. You need to arrest criminals and find solutions that will last longer and make sense.”

The National House of Traditional Leaders had no power to reprimand traditional leaders if things went wrong under their watch, CEO of the commission on traditional leadership disputes and claims, Abram Sithole, told the commission.

The commission falls under the traditional affairs department.

He said they would approach the provincial house under which that traditional leader fell. The house would then put pressure on the leader to act, he said.

The department was still new and finding its feet in addressing such matters. Referring to the resources it had, he said it was a "sardine surrounded by sharks and whales".

Collapsed system

A bill drafted to deal with initiates and deaths would be presented to Parliament soon. He hoped it would be passed by May.

In the past, initiations had been the responsibilities of traditional leaders and owners of traditional schools. However, based on evidence over the past five years or so, they no longer had the skills to do so and government had to step in.

“The system has collapsed from the traditional leaders’ side,” Sithole said.

The problem the department was facing was that some traditional leaders and owners of initiation schools did not want to be monitored. They often encouraged initiates not to disclose any information to officials or run away if they saw any unusual cars or people approaching them, he said.

The hearings continue.

Read more on:    culture  |  crime  |  initiation

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