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Plans in place to prevent initiation deaths - govt

The Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department said for the first time, it had set up a Joint Operation Centre.

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

CAPE TOWN - Government said it had plans in place to prevent initiation deaths in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

The summer initiation season starts this week.

Last year, out of about 34 boys who died during the season, 23 were from the Eastern Cape alone; the majority of them died of dehydration and septicemia.

The Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department said for the first time, it had set up a Joint Operation Centre.

It will be coordinating work being done by its monitoring teams on the ground.

The department's Mamkeli Ngam said: “These structures will also be replicated at city level so that we’re able to deploy our resources in areas where there is a need.”

Ngam said they were also working with organisations, foundations and the media to stop deaths relating to initiation.

In the Western Cape, Cultural Affairs and Sports spokesperson Tania Colyn said they were providing training to initiation forums which included first aid.

“We also make sure that registered sites are given support in terms of connecting them with the initiation forums and making sure that they have everything they need.”

She said they were also encouraging parents and caregivers to have boys do medical check-ups and take them to registered sites.

CUSTOMARY INITIATION BILL

In December 2018, the National Assembly passed the Customary Initiation Bill aimed at regulating initiation schools and in so doing, reducing the number of initiate deaths.

Over 400 initiates have died over the last six years.

Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela said it was not government’s intention to interfere in customary practices, but rather to clamp down on illegal and bogus schools that led to more than 3,600 hospital admissions and 132 amputations since 2012.

Under the new law, municipalities are expected to inspect properties used for initiation practices.

“South Africa is governed by laws and we cannot allow lawlessness; therefore, this bill seeks to deal harshly with the hijacking of our culture and commercialisation of our good cultural practice. It is about punishing wrongdoing as criminal elements who abduct underage boys without the knowledge of their families for financial gain and establish illegal schools all over.”

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