During his nation address on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the traditional summer initiation season in the Eastern Cape will go ahead, except in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro which has been declared a Covid-19 coronavirus hotspot.
Ramaphosa said after consultation with traditional leaders who had submitted a risk adjustment plan to Cabinet, it was decided that traditional initiation – ulwaluko – should go ahead. This is after the traditional rite of passage to manhood was suspended in March amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. This meant that there was no traditional male initiation during the winter season in June.
The decision by Cabinet follows an uproar by traditional leaders last week after Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela issued a statement that there would be no initiations during the summer season.
In the Eastern Cape, several illegal initiation schools (amabhoma), which have been mushrooming since last month in different districts, have been closed.
“Following extensive consultation with traditional leaders, we have agreed that the summer initiation season in the Eastern Cape may go ahead. This is because traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape have submitted a risk-adjusted plan that has been approved by the departments of health and cooperative governance and traditional affairs.
“This plan includes strict adherence to health protocols, including screening of initiates, the provision of personal protective equipment and water for hygiene and to prevent dehydration.
“However, due to the high rate of infections in the metro, no initiation schools will be allowed in Nelson Mandela Bay. These measures are not meant to punish its residents.
“They are not intended to increase the hardship experienced by our citizens. These measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus and to save lives,” said Ramaphosa.
The president also announced that the metro had been declared a Covid-19 pandemic hotspot and in light of this, certain regulations would be put in place in order to deal with the surge of the virus.
He said the rise in infections was particularly of great concern in the in Nelson Mandela Bay and Sarah Baartman District and the Garden Route District in the Western Cape.
He called on South Africans to change their behaviour to prevent a resurgence of the virus and to manage outbreaks wherever they occur.
Ramaphosa said following a recommendation of the national coronavirus command council and after consultation with the premiers, metro mayors and traditional leaders, Cabinet had decided to declare the Nelson Mandela metro a coronavirus hotspot.
In addition to the existing level 1 regulations, there would be other stricter restrictions that will apply in the metro with effect from midnight on Thursday.
He said the country could still prevent the virus from spreading further if appropriate steps were taken urgently.
“Tonight [Thursday] we stand in solidarity with the people of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro as they work to contain this outbreak. I have the utmost confidence that the leadership of the Eastern Cape is doing and will do all that is necessary to bring the rate of infection down once again,” said Ramaphosa.