All Gauteng initiation schools suspended till end of 2018

21 November 2017 - 15:07 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
A Pedi initiate during preparations before the initiates get to go home after six weeks in the initiation school on 19 July 2017.
A Pedi initiate during preparations before the initiates get to go home after six weeks in the initiation school on 19 July 2017.
Image: Madelene Cronje

The Commission for Cultural‚ Religious and Linguistic Rights (CRL) has ordered a suspension of all initiation-related activities in Gauteng until December 2018‚ in an effort to bring about regulation and curb criminality in the practice.

This came as a recommendation in its report “Some Problems and Challenges that Lead to Deaths and Injuries at Initiation Schools in South Africa”‚ presented in Braamfontein on Tuesday.

The chairperson of the Gauteng initiation-monitoring task team‚ Prince Mahlangu‚ said that the aim is not to stop the practice indefinitely.

“We are supporting the suspension on the simple basis of protecting our children. We also want to be able to compel the government to support the initiative.

“Many of the issues raised are not initiation issues‚ [they are] criminal. As [we embark on the suspension]‚ we expect that there will be areas which will still be operating‚ such as Sedibeng and the Orange Farm. We have put extreme measures [in place] to curb those issues‚” said Mahlangu.

In the report‚ presented by CLR chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva‚ the commission found that incompetence in performing the ritual was the major cause of penile amputations and initiates’ deaths.

“The people who run the schools are often young and have just graduated. They do not have the adequate knowledge of circumcision. Because of lack of the necessary experience and absence of an authoritarian structure overseeing the process‚ there young people appoint inexperienced traditional healers‚ who cannot manage incidents such as haemorrhages.” said Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

Mkhwanazi-Xakuva said that they have asked Gauteng municipalities to not issue out permits of operation.

“Generally‚ if you do not have a permit‚ you cannot operate. So we have asked the municipalities in the province to not issue out permits and they agreed. Should anyone be found operating it will be an illegal one‚ and that is a criminal offence. We also spoke to the city of Johannesburg to pass on the message to communities that there will not be any school operating during this suspension. The police will be working with us in ensuring that no one goes against the suspension‚” she said.

Mkhwanazi-Xaluva has called on the department of health to support research on penile transplants‚ and in turn make them available like any other transplant.

The report found that provinces such as Western Cape‚ Mpumalanga and Limpopo had low fatalities because of proper consultation‚ and the involvement of experienced key role players in the operations.

The mushrooming of initiation schools was partly blamed on the economic opportunity it presents for young unemployed practitioners.

“Culture‚ including male initiation and circumcision‚ has become a commodity‚ and there is a major and growing economic activity around the practice of the initiation rite. Another disturbing trend is the emergence of touts‚ who go around recruiting and abducting potential initiates for a fee‚” Mkhwanazi-Xaluva submitted.

Among many issues raised was lack of consent‚ as well as the need for people who run initiation schools to be accountable for ensuring that the parents of initiates are aware of the whereabouts of their children‚ and the importance of initiation practitioners getting parental consent to initiate them.

The violence‚ abuse [drug and substance abuse included] and gangsterism alleged to take place in these traditional schools was also of concern to the commission.

“In Gauteng the practitioners hijack the concept of initiation school. Some of the abducted initiates are not from families that practise the culture. It’s criminality all the way‚ in Sedibeng to be specific. We found that initiation schools there teach initiates how to be gangsters. They are taught how to use weapons and such. They come out as members of gangs who terrorise communities and that is not what initiation school is about.

“We are focusing on Gauteng because of the criminal element to the way things are done. We cannot do the same to provinces such as the Eastern Cape because it is still initiation school. It’s just that they struggle with the method. It is still initiation school‚ not the school of gangsterism‚” she added.


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