Traditional leaders want land for initiation schools

A young man at an initiation school in Libode, outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. (Leon Sadiki, City Press, file)
A young man at an initiation school in Libode, outside Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. (Leon Sadiki, City Press, file)

Traditional leaders in Nelson Mandela Bay have called on the municipality to find new land for initiation schools, which they say are being crowded out by informal settlements and rubbish dumps.

The leaders said the ritual of ulwaluko (initiation) was under threat, GroundUp reports.

They added in the last two years, informal settlements have spread into the areas where they used to conduct the initiation process.

"It is no longer a safe environment to take our boys to. The tradition is fast losing its value because everything is happening in the public glare. We want our own land, as we are constantly being pushed away by people who are building shacks," said the chairman of traditional chiefs in Nelson Mandela Bay, chief Velile Mfunda.

He added the chiefs had approached the municipality on several occasions seeking land specifically demarcated for initiation schools, but the response had been nothing but empty promises. They also approached people occupying the land to tell them that they were affecting the future of their boys.

"Every Xhosa man is proud to go through the initiation process. It is not good that they are watched by other people, especially women, during the process. This is now happening because our schools have been occupied by informal settlements."

Mfunda said one of the places they used to take boys to was a bushy area near Kwamagxaki, which had been occupied by shack dwellers.

Mongezi Hoyi, the secretary-general of the Kwazekwasa traditional male circumcision for amaXhosa of Nelson Mandela Bay, said people had occupied land in Shukushukuma, Motherwell, which had been used for circumcision.

"We used to take our boys to that area. We are now cornered as we don't have a safe place to go to. We identified three areas in the metro with the help of the municipality but the land was quickly occupied by cattle and goat herders. The municipality failed to remove them. We then occupied an adjacent plot but the animal farmers were hostile to us, saying our boys were stealing their pigs and goats," said Hoyi.

He added they also faced the challenge of people and companies dumping rubbish at some of the initiation schools.

"The municipality instructed us to take the registration numbers of the vehicles dumping in the bush. We have been doing that but the municipality is not arresting the culprits. The problem continues with companies dumping dead animals, meat, tyres and anything. The rubbish attracts mosquitoes."

Luxolo Namete, a spokesman for the Amahlubi, said the massive housing backlog in the municipality should not affect the culture of ulwaluko.

"Amahlubi have no problem with the informal settlements as we believe that there are thousands of hectares of land in Nelson Mandela Bay that are not being utilised. We would like the municipality to identify land for our boys to undergo the circumcision process," added Namete.

Mayoral spokesperson George Geleba said: "The municipality continues to encourage community leaders to approach us with proposals so that we can evaluate whether pieces of land are available."

He urged residents and businesses to report illegal dumping to the authorities.

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