Individuals have turned the cultural practice of initiation schools into a cash cow, ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga has said.
In a snap debate in the National Assembly today, Motshekga said the deaths of dozens of teenagers in Mpumalanga and Limpopo showed there was a dire need to transform initiation schools.
“The death of more than 40 youth in the Mpumalanga province is a painful wake-up call for us to embark on a holistic and national transformation of our initiation schools,” he said.
“These schools cannot be allowed to become slaughterhouses.”
He called for the implementation of laws aligning the cultural practice with the constitutionally guaranteed right to life.
“It is quite clear that we need national legislation that provides for norms and standards, pertaining to age limitations, participation of parents, health workers, prohibition of harmful substances, qualification of officials of initiation schools, and the harmonisation of the calendars of initiation and mainline schools,” Motshekga said.
He said a debate on the abolition of the schools would not be entertained, as the initiation schools were part of African culture and tradition.
The death of initiates was blamed on those trying to make a quick buck by conning parents.
“Individuals who are not guided by African spiritual and cultural values underpinning initiations of both male and females have secularised and commercialised initiation schools with impunity,” he said.
Meanwhile, the office of King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele tribe has blamed the deaths of initiates in Mpumalanga’s highveld area on witchcraft.
Ndzundza Tribal Authority (NTA) spokesman Prince Dumisani Mahlangu told a Sapa correspondent this week the number of deaths was unusually high.
“These deaths are not normal, kune buloyi la (there is witchcraft here),” said Mahlangu.