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Deputy minister concerned by rise in kidnappings of young boys

Obed Bapela visited the Eastern Cape where five initiates recently died and spoke about the Customary Initiation Bill which was approved by cabinet last week.

FILE: A picture of young boys from the Xhosa tribe attending a traditional initiation school in Libode in the Eastern Cape province. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela says he's deeply concerned about what appears to be an increase in the number of young boys being kidnapped for initiation.

Bapela has visited the Eastern Cape where five initiates recently died and spoke about the Customary Initiation Bill which was approved by Cabinet last week.

The draft bill aims to criminalise the operation of illegal schools and curb abductions of young boys throughout the country.

Bapela says they are aware that teenagers are taken from one province to another.

“Then hide them there somewhere in the mountains or take them from one area and then send them to another area. We have heard about other incidents of those who are taken to Moitse. And then we know the culprit there and we have asked the police to go and really deal with that situation."

He also says there are systemic problems, such as parents who don't report abductions, but rather give money to bogus traditional practitioners.

“And then the law then begins to have a section that says should a parent be quiet, knowing that a child has been kidnapped, we will also have punishment and punitive measure on the parent so that we don’t leave space for these people to operate.”

Currently, the law does not allow authorities to arrest those running unregistered initiation schools unless an initiate dies or is injured.

Bapela adds this will allow government agencies and concerned parents to get rid of bogus traditional surgeons - who kidnap young men.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)