Traditional leaders say ending initiation schools not an option

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday confirmed that 21 boys had died in the Eastern Cape during the summer traditional initiation season.

FILE: A picture taken on 20 November 2009 of young boys from the Xhosa tribe attending a traditional initiation school in Libode in the Eastern Cape Province. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - As the death toll continues to rise at initiation schools, the House of Traditional Leaders said putting an end to the practice was not an option.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday confirmed that 21 boys had died in the Eastern Cape during the summer traditional initiation season.

Government suggested medical doctors be allowed into initiation schools to reduce the number of fatalities, but the traditional body refused, saying that would amount to the colonialism of the Xhosa tradition.

The House of Traditional Leader’s Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana said criminals would celebrate if initiation schools were closed.

“Our worry is that we are going to give way to criminals and it’s obvious to us that we are dealing with criminal elements here,” Nonkonyana said.

He said the focus should rather be on dealing with criminality at initiation schools.

“Once we do that, things will be fine.”

The traditional leaders said they were prepared to only allow traditional circumcisions in the winter season because most boys die from dehydration.