Lockdown: 13 initiation schools shut down Eastern Cape for operating illegally

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A man at an initiation school.
A man at an initiation school.
Mujahid Safodien / AFP
  • More than 10 initiation schools were shut down in the Eastern Cape on Monday.
  • Initiation is suspended under lockdown Level 1 lockdown and those who organise the centuries-old ritual, are in breach of lockdown regulations.
  • Cogta has warned that the number of illegal initiates is expected to rise as officials continue raiding illegal initiation schools across the province.

At least 13 initiation schools were shut down by Eastern Cape police and traditional leaders on Monday, and 30 initiates were sent home to their parents or to hospitals.

Initiation is suspended under Alert Level 1 lockdown, and those who organise the ritual, are in breach of lockdown regulations.

The raids took place on Monday in Buffalo City Metro Municipality and Nyandeni Local Municipality, confirmed Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam.

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Ngam said the number of illegal initiates is expected to increase as officials continue raiding illegal initiation schools across the province.

Asked about the fate of the initiates, Ngam said: "Parents either took them home or we sent them to hospitals."

The Monday clampdown took place in East London, Mdantsane, and in several villages in the Nyandeni local municipality, said Ngam.

Ngam said the police are investigating 13 cases of illegal circumcision. He added that 30 initiates have been affected by the closure of the schools so far.

The raids came as deputy minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Obed Bapela declared its intention to clamp down on bogus initiation.

In a statement Bapela said: "To this end, government and all stakeholders will not tolerate bogus initiation schools and anyone who is found to be disobeying the order of initiation suspension in the wake of Covid-19.

"For those caught running illegal initiation schools will face the full might of the law in line with Disaster Management Act regulations. With infection numbers increasing again, let's work together to defeat coronavirus."

Bapela said while the suspension of traditional initiation was unprecedented, it was a necessary undertaking to mitigate exposure and contraction of Covid-19.

Save lives

"Since alert level 5 to alert Level 1, the country remains in consensus and united that the need to save lives is sacrosanct. As such all stakeholders understand that although the prohibition has been detrimental to this essential cultural practice, it is only in the interest of protecting initiates that initiation remains suspended," said Bapela.   

Bapela said in recent weeks, cluster spikes of infections seen in numerous areas across the country are signalling the possibility of a resurgence.

"In light of this, the country has to take the necessary precautions to curtail any potential of exposing initiates to conditions that might place them in vulnerable positions in respect of contracting the Coronavirus [sic]," he said.

Eastern Cape provincial police spokesperson Khaya Tonjeni declined to comment saying initiation was a function of Cogta.

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