ANC Caucus concerned about recent deaths during winter initiation season

JUNE 25, 2016

The Office of the Chief Whip in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature has released a statement expressing their concern of the recent reported deaths of three initiates and the hospitalisation of many others in the Eastern Cape, since the beginning of the June 2016 initiation season.

We call upon parents, communities and stakeholders to join hands during this period - no young man should ever lose his life during an important traditional passage to manhood.  The death toll of previous seasons is already too high and cannot be allowed to repeat itself,” the statement said.

The statement added that the legislative and control mechanisms which are currently in place, should be compulsory and ensure that:

  • No person under the age of 18 years is allowed to attend an initiation school;
  • No initiate should be circumcised by an unregistered ingcibi, be treated by an unregistered ikhankatha or be admitted into an illegal initiation school;
  • Responsibilities of parents are clearly defined and strengthened;
  • Community involvement is defined and explored; and
  • Ingcibi and amakhankatha are registered, trained and are accountable to both parents and the communities.

“Despite all these control mechanisms, the death of young initiates continues unabated. Further concern is raised on the observation that some individuals in communities are creating businesses out of this cultural passage,” the statement continued.

Furthermore, some reported causal factors of injuries and deaths are criminal and ought not to take place. Such actions include:

  • Denying initiates an opportunity to drink liquids – thus leading to dehydration;
  • Subjecting initiates to hunger, and denying them food;
  • Forcing initiates to experiment with drugs; and  
  • Overcrowding of initiates in one initiation school (Ibhoma)

“It must never be allowed that an important custom like initiation is made a profit making scheme. Instead, initiation must be acknowledged for what it is, a custom practiced by Traditional Communities.”

“The ANC Caucus is confident that the Eastern Cape Customary Male Initiation Bill, which the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature will pass soon after the Local Government will make a meaningful impact towards reducing these deaths and injuries, whilst preserving the custom.”

This Bill which has been welcomed by communities and amongst others, places traditional leaders at the centre of the custom by:

  • Making them decision makers in as far as who be an ingcibi or be an ikhankatha in their respective villages;
  • Empowering them to constitute initiation working groups in the respective villages to monitor each and every initiation school in that village.

“The bill also has very harsh penalties for anyone who breaches the law by either circumcising or treating initiates without permission to do so from the relevant traditional leader.”

“Parents, who forge birth certificates or identity documents or at the worst are involved in bribery in order to avoid complying with the 18-year rule or good health condition rules, will be harshly dealt with by this law.”

The Chief Whip has urged parents to help save the lives of these young boys by observing the law, adding that communities must assist in finding ingcibi and amakhankatha who are credible and to recommend them to their traditional leaders for registration and verification.

“The exchange of ingcibi and amakhankatha from one community to another should be an option when capacity problems have been identified.”

The statement added that schools must educate young boys about these laws and the process of preparing for initiation school.

“The Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs is currently working with the Department of Education, to enforce this task once the Bill has been signed into law.”

“The Chief Whip is confident that if legislation and community controls are enforced to the latter and if communities take responsibility of their children, many of these senseless injuries and deaths can be avoided,” the statement concluded.