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‘We won't allow illegal initiation schools to operate in Soweto’

Community members described how frightened initiates snuck into their homes to ask for food and water.

Initiates were forced to inhale shoe repair glue as a sedative at illegal initiation school in Meadowlands. Picture: Dineo Bendile/EWN.

SOWETO - Angry Meadowlands community members in Soweto say they will not allow illegal initiation schools to operate in the area.

Community leaders have asked government to intervene after an initiation school was uncovered in the township last week.

Twenty-two boys were rescued from the area with 19 now staying at a place of safety.

Community members have described how frightened initiates would sneak into their homes to ask for food and water.

Locals who rescued the boys say this is the blade used to perform the illegal circumcisions.

A community member who discovered the boys says the initiates were forced to inhale shoe repair glue as a sedative.

"It's their medicine; used to make them relax and they don't feel any pain."

The boys were allegedly kidnapped from Orange Farm in the south of Johannesburg and tortured during initiation exercises on a mine dump in Soweto.

Equipment used at an illegal initiation school in Meadowlands.

Meanwhile, the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department says it will work to ensure that all illegal initiation schools are shut down.

Government and traditional authorities say the operation of illegal initiation schools in parts of the country has made a mess out of an ancient cultural practice.

Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Obed Bapela said, "This is what we don't like to see; our culture being undermined, ridiculed and becoming a laughing stock."

Chairperson of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) Prince Manene Tabane says the conduct of some initiates is also a growing cause of concern.

"These boys will do as they please. After they are apprehended, when they come back they will start to behave contrary to society's expectations."

Pictures: Dineo Bendile.