Widespread concern over ballooning deaths of initiates
Eastern Cape leaders have expressed shock as the initiation death toll increased to 12 after the fatal shooting of three initiates who were brothers in Ngqamakhwe on Monday.
The first death in the initiation season was that of a 20-year-old who was allegedly killed by a group of men in a Lusikisiki village.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane has expressed shock at the deaths.
He ordered an investigation into claims that a traditional nurse was raping initiates in his care.
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs provincial spokesperson Mamnkeli Ngam said stakeholders had done their best to avoid deaths, but they kept happening.
“This is shocking to have 12 initiates die in the first week of December. We fear the worst,” Ngam said.
Eastern Cape House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders chair Nkosi Mpumalanga Gwadiso also expressed shock at the number of deaths.
“Most died of dehydration and assault,” Mpumalanga said.
“We established most of the dead initiates did not drink water at home for weeks before they underwent the rite, and even at the initiation school they refused water.
“We call on parents to be at the forefront of ensuring safer initiation.”
Mabuyane urged law enforcement authorities to tighten their grip in the fight against lawlessness at initiation schools.
He is expected to lead a traditional initiation monitoring team to visit areas with high initiation-related complaints.
“We are strengthening our monitoring systems through our ward-based initiation forums and community development workers,” he said.
Mabuyane also called for a speedy investigation into allegations that a traditional nurse from Cacadu was raping initiates.
“The province is disheartened by all these negative developments surrounding our initiation schools. We send condolences to the families who have lost sons.”
ANC provincial spokesperson Gift Ngqondi said: “Initiation is a noble African custom that represents a rite of passage into adulthood that should be characterised by celebration, not sorrow.
“Our nation cannot whither and be dealt such a blow of losing the young who have so much to offer.”
Buffalo City Metro local house chair Nkosi Zwelizolile Toyise said a 22-year-old initiate died at an initiation school at Kanana outside Mdantsane on December 5.
“This was after he was severely assaulted, allegedly by his brother, who was his traditional nurse.
“The reason for the attack was said to be that he found the initiate drinking water.”
The brother has been arrested and is in custody.
Chris Hani Local House of Traditional Leaders chair Nkosinathi Daluxolo Jezile and Joe Gqabi Local House of Traditional Leaders Morena Tshalmo Sejosengoe agreed most deaths were caused by dehydration.
There were two reported deaths in the Alfred Nzo district and one was thought to have been caused by assault.
OR Tambo traditional initiation forum chair Nkosi Zwelizolile Lutuka said three deaths had been reported, two in Lusikisiki and one in Ngqeleni.
“The death in Ngqeleni is of an initiate who was allegedly assaulted,” Lutuka said.
Traditional initiation monitoring teams, including police, are searching the province to locate hidden illegal initiation schools.
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