21 initiates have already died this season - Mkhize

Initiates gather during their graduation ceremony. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)
Initiates gather during their graduation ceremony. (Sandile Ndlovu, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

Twenty-one initiates have already died throughout South Africa since the start of the 2018 summer traditional initiation season, which started in November.

This was announced by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday.

"We are currently in the middle of the summer initiation season and the country has sadly witnessed a loss of lives of initiates," Mkhize told reporters.

"Far too many young lives are lost season by season, with the Eastern Cape experiencing the highest number of deaths year in and year out."

Read: Cogta pleads with parents to check legitimacy of initiation centres as death toll climbs

According to the statistics at Mkhize's disposal, 15 of these deaths were recorded in the Eastern Cape, two in the Western Cape, two in the North West, and two in the Eastern Cape.

Of the 21 deaths, seven of the initiates died from dehydration, at least two men died from sepsis, one initiate hanged himself, and another was burnt to death while sleeping.

Plans to curb initiate deaths

The minister said that the government was working closely with all stakeholders, especially traditional leaders and parents, to ensure that the challenges of initiation were addressed in all provinces where it is practised.

"We have issued guidelines which amongst others directs that initiates must be given drinking water and we are aware that this is not happening yet," Mkhize said.

He added that all cases of death had been registered with the police and that his department would reach out to the minister of police to ensure that the cases were properly investigated.

"The local monitoring committees should intensify their efforts to monitor their oversight and, where instances of criminality are detected, together with the SAPS, they must act and bring all those responsible to book."

Also read: New law to regulate and police initiation schools on the cards - Van Rooyen

Mkhize said that the Customary Initiation Bill, which will help regulate customary initiation practices, had been adopted in the National Assembly and had now been referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The NCOP processes relating to the bill will commence in 2019.

"Government will continue to pursue the Zero Deaths campaign and shall not rest until it is realised. We cannot continue losing our young people in this manner," Mkhize concluded.

Summer initiate deaths on the decrease

In 2017, City Press reported that 15 young men had died in the Eastern Cape during the summer initiation season.

The year-on-year death toll for the summer initiation season had decreased dramatically from 46 deaths in 2015 and 29 deaths in 2016, the paper reported.

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