Tough talk as initiation season starts

2017-12-03 06:00
Initiates. Picture: Theuns Botha

Initiates. Picture: Theuns Botha

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Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana is determined to ensure that the unnecessary deaths of initiates in the Eastern Cape become a thing of the past.

Nonkonyana, the new chairperson of the province’s House of Traditional Leaders, wants his executive to build on the work done by his predecessor, Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima and his team in preventing abakhwetha (initiates) from dying during their rites of passage into manhood.

Matanzima, whose term ended midyear, left behind a significant milestone, the Eastern Cape Customary Male Initiation Practice Bill of 2015, which premier Phumulo Masualle signed into law in December last year. It makes it illegal for boys younger than 18 to attend initiation schools.

After the act was implemented for the first time during this year’s winter initiation season, the number of initiation deaths was reduced to 11, the lowest in over a decade.

In the 2016 winter season, at least 26 initiates died in the bush.

SEE: Initiation: Get help with this app

Nonkonyana told City Press this week that they are working around the clock to ensure that those who undergo traditional initiation come back alive. Thousands of boys in the province have already undergone this sacred rite of passage into manhood after finishing their exams this weekend and last.

“We are ready. Traditional leaders, elderly men, government, parents and everybody involved in the rite has to work together to ensure our boys are safe in the initiation schools. We are not going to tolerate any nonsense.”

He said that although the new act was commendable, it had some loopholes which needed to be closed, to prevent unscrupulous individuals from making a quick buck out of initiations.

“But the new act is key in the fight against this scourge because it has put traditional leaders, the custodians of our customs, at the forefront of initiation. There are harsh penalties for those who break the law, unlike in the past, where people did as they pleased.”

According to the act, those found responsible for the deaths of initiates could be charged with murder and face up to 25 years in jail.

Nonkonyana called on parents to ensure their children are at the right age, which is 18 and older, before they undergo the ritual and to not let them use the identity documents of older siblings, a common practice.

Boys about to undergo traditional initiation are urged to first undergo the mandatory medical exams to ensure they are fit for the procedure. Those who are required to take medication during their stay at initiation schools must be allowed to do so, he said.

Only amakhankatha (traditional nurses) identified by traditional leaders and their subjects in villages are permitted to take care of abakhwetha and must have over 10 years experience. Ingcibi (traditional surgeons) must be elderly men with many years experience in performing the procedure.

There had been no incidents reported since the start of the summer initiation season in East London last week, Nonkonyana said.

Read more on:    eastern cape  |  health  |  initiation

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