21 boys dead in summer initiation in EC, says Health Minister

Minister Zweli Mkhize said most of the boys have died from dehydration.

FILE: Young boys attending a traditional initiation school. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The Health Minister has confirmed 21 boys have died in the Eastern Cape during the summer traditional initiation season.

The province’s premier led a delegation of government officials and traditional leaders on a visit to initiation schools in the area.

Minister Zweli Mkhize said most of the boys had died from dehydration.

“This is due to the belief that initiates should not get water. So, before and after the ceremony they don’t get water. This leads to mental confusion, electrolyte imbalance and renal failure.”

Mkhize said the practice seemed to be safer in the winter months.

“We have recommended that they stop initiations and restrict them to winter months only. In the same area, no deaths are recorded in winter every year.”

The government will donate water to all initiation schools in the region.

They will also communicate with school officials to ensure all initiates are given water. The safety conditions in schools will also be investigated.