Initiation deaths are murders - Motsoaledi

2013-05-29 22:03
Aaron Motsoaledi  (Picture: Sapa)

Aaron Motsoaledi (Picture: Sapa)

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Cape Town - The deaths of dozens of boys at initiation schools in Mpumalanga and Limpopo was akin to tenderpreneurship gone wrong, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Wednesday.

Participating in a snap debate in the National Assembly, Motsoaledi said the deaths had nothing to do with culture or tradition, but with commercial interests.

"I wish to state unequivocally, we are mostly dealing with commercial interests here..., with individuals who have decided to hijack certain African cultures to amass wealth, make huge amounts of money in as short a time as possible, under the cloak of culture and tradition," he told MPs.

He labelled the practice "culture-treneurship", but in the same breath defended the cultural importance of initiation schools.

"The issue of traditional initiation is as old as the mountains itself.

"It was never meant to kill," said Motsoaledi.

The minister said in the past, the practice was conducted with utmost care under the watchful eye of kings and senior traditional leaders.

"No king or traditional leader would like to be associated with death at their initiation schools, because this was viewed as a sign of weakness on the part of the throne."

However, over the years some cultures had been corrupted - giving rise to commercial interests.

"Mutilations started rising year by year until we are at this point, which if not stopped, might result in a crisis," said Motsoaledi.

Guilty of murder

The situation had become so bad that people who did not want to work to earn a living called themselves traditional leaders, hiding behind the constitutional right to freedom of cultural expression.

These self-proclaimed traditional leaders then charged parents money for each initiation, which was not the case in the past.

Motsoaledi said those who performed botched circumcisions were guilty of murder.

"At least from the area where I come from... , not every Tom, Dick and Harry could ever qualify to be a traditional surgeon to perform the circumcision itself, control the bleeding, and nurse the wound.

The minister said the age at which youths were initiated needed to be reviewed, as children could not "become men overnight".

"There are a lot of children allowed to go there and this is wrong... people must only go there when they are mature enough."

Motsoaledi dismissed the opposition's calls for a judicial commission of inquiry into the matter, and said the reasons for the deaths of initiates were already known.

Ample laws were in place to govern initiation schools.

"There are traditional leaders who try their best to comply... Unfortunately, there are those who engaged in criminal activities," he said.

Traditional leaders who ignored illegal initiation practices "under the name of culture" should face the consequences.

"Those who flout laws must be brought to book and be arrested without fear or favour, regardless of their social, cultural and traditional standing."

Read more on:    aaron motsoaledi  |  mbombela  |  culture  |  politics

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