Parents who send kids to illegal initiation schools are criminals - chief

2016-06-02 12:18

Cape Town – Parents who send their children to illegal initiation schools should be held liable, Nkosi Sipho Mahlangu says.

The deputy chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders and the head of the National Initiation Task Team was speaking at a press conference on Thursday to mark the start of the winter initiation season.

Last year, 101 initiates died and there had been around 1 000 penile amputations in the last 10 years, he said. 

Mahlangu said the law had to be stringent for parents who knowingly sent their children to unregistered initiation schools, or refused to give information regarding the said schools once their children were there.

"They are an accomplice to a crime. They are participating in organised crime," he said.

Mahlangu said the parents who refused medical treatment for their children should also be held liable.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen said the department was clamping down on the illegal schools.

They had created an initiation hotline, where people who witnessed abuse of the cultural practice could report incidents.

These included kidnapping of initiates, assault and neglect.

"Many would agree that the safety of our young men and boys is not the sole responsibility of government, but a societal responsibility. Our anger about the many lives that were destroyed due to botched procedures should move us to more action than before," he said.

Van Rooyen said they would continue working with the justice cluster to ensure that people who kidnapped young men and opened schools for commercialisation were dealt with.

Deputy Minister Obed Bapela said, of the 101 deaths, 44 had been during the winter season, and 56 in summer.

Leading causes of death

The leading causes of initiate deaths included bleeding out and dehydration, the department said. 

Most deaths occurred in the Eastern Cape (40), while the Free State recorded 7.

Bapela said they would focus their campaigns in the Eastern Cape this year. 

The National Prosecuting Authority on Thursday that said these illegal schools were part of organised crime syndicates.

It was difficult to prosecute, however, as parents and initiates often declined to give evidence.

Van Rooyen said last month that a traditional surgeon had been sentenced in the Witbank Magistrate's Court to five years in jail for the death of an initiate.

He said they were now working on strengthening legislation around initiations.

In April, Cabinet approved the draft Policy on the Customary Practice of Initiation in South Africa.


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