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MPs discuss initiation deaths

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told MPs unscrupulous people have hijacked the African culture.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told MPs unscrupulous people have hijacked the African culture. Picture: SAPA

CAPE TOWN - The issue of deaths during ritual circumcision came into focus in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon.

Members of Parliament (MPs) held a snap debate on the matter following the death of some 36 initiates during rituals in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told MPs unscrupulous people have hijacked the African culture to make money.

"They make huge amounts of money in as short a time as possible hiding under the cloak of culture and tradition."

The Democratic Alliance (DA) wants a commission of inquiry into initiation deaths.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)'s Russell Cebekhulu said the practice of ritual circumcision needs to be modernised while African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga appeared to agree.

He told MP's that they need to re-examine the way circumcisions are carried out.

Meanwhile, Mpumalanga police said last week they are continuing their investigation into the deaths of 23 initiates and the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs said they have stepped up measures to ensure future initiates are kept safe.

The 23 boys all died at registered schools in the Nkangala District since the beginning of the initiation season, two weeks ago.

The deaths have sparked fears of more to come and prompted an urgent intervention by the government.

Departmental Spokesman Simphiwe Kunene said the so-called 'Ngoma bill' will enforce stricter regulations on initiation schools, once it's enacted.

"We seek to ensure that we have all initiation schools ready and have them all comply with the health requirements."

Kunene said since hearing of the deaths they've despatched tents to the area to act as mobile clinics.

"We have despatched tents, which are being used as mobile clinics. In working with the department we are moving around these initiation schools."

He said the department is waiting for police to complete their investigation before it takes any action against the schools where the boys died.

The police have since opened 22 cases of murder.

In December last year 22-year-old Gabaediwe Motsage was stoned and beaten to death.

The police's Olebogeng Tawana said Motsage was murdered after escaping from the initiation school.

Tawana said it is believed there were fears she would reveal secrets of the initiation procedure.

"Suspects between the ages of 13 and 30 were arrested at the initiation school and charged with murder."