Contralesa to address initiation deaths

A conference of traditional leaders will be convened to develop a new strategy.

An inititiation school. Kgosi Setlamorogo Thobejane said a conference of traditional leaders will be convened to develop a new strategy. Picture: Supplied

PRETORIA - The Congress of Traditional Leaders (Contralesa) on Friday invited the Health Department to form an integral part of the traditional circumcision process as it moves to curb further deaths of young initiates.

Dozens of young men have died this initiation season, reigniting the annual debate on the tradition.

Secretary-general of the congress, Kgosi Setlamorago Thobejane, addressed the National Press Club in Pretoria, revealing plans to reform some aspects of the practice.

Thobejane says traditional leaders will still run the educational side of the custom but the medical side will be left to the professionals.

"Where there's health-related issues, we'll make sure that the Department of Health becomes part of the whole process and take charge of the whole area."

Thobejane has urged communities to play a greater role in these initiation schools.

"Making sure we're in charge, part of the preparations, the monitoring of making sure everything runs smoothly."

A conference has been scheduled for November to develop a plan to introduce these new measures.

He added the congress will take responsibility for these deaths and will initiate a process to prevent more lives being lost.


In July, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi lashed out at circumcision schools across the country following the deaths of 30 initiates in the Eastern Cape.

Motsoaledi said the practice of illegal circumcisions has become a growing problem across the country.

By that time, over 50 teens had died countrywide since the start of the initiation season in June.

He added that the number of circumcision deaths could have been far worse if government hadn't intervened.

Motsoaledi said illegal circumcisions were not only a criminal issue, but an issue of community development.

He said apart from kids often being forced against their will to attend these schools, many feel they must go on their own accord because of peer pressure.

"This is a sociological problem. Communities need to be mobilised."

Motsoaledi said the practice had in recent years been plagued by criminality.

"I can't as Minister of Health say that this tradition mustn't happen. While the issue is one of traditional leaders, there is also a lot of criminality."