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Initiation death toll across SA now at 21

Seventeen young boys lost their lives in the Eastern Cape while two others died in the North West and the Western Cape.

Illegal initiation school was destroyed by police during raid to save students from harm. Picture: Louise McAuliffe/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - With the summer initiation season in full swing, the number of initiates who have died while partaking in the bi-annual ceremony now stands at 21.

Seventeen young boys lost their lives in the Eastern Cape while two others died in the North West and the Western Cape.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has pinned the blame on government for what it says is a lack of support and resources in programs aimed at reducing the number of casualties.

Both the Eastern Cape government as well as the House of Traditional Leaders have called for investigations into the circumstances leading to the fatalities.

Contralesa spokesperson Xolile Ndevu says: “Movement has got enough money to assist our programmes in terms of curbing the initiation deaths. But that money is only directed to medical male circumcision, we’re saying government through its president must declare the issue of initiation as a national disaster.”

At the same time, Eastern Cape co-operative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam says while the situation is dire, government's hands are tied.

“It is not government’s responsibility to ensure that people go to the bush, it’s a family issue, a parental issue and a community issue working hand-in-hand with traditional leaders.”