Department claims some initiates could have been murdered as death toll rises


The Eastern Cape Department of Health has reportedly alleged that some of the deaths in the province’s winter initiation season could have been the result of murder instead of botched circumcisions.

Speaking to News24, department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said autopsy findings on some the bodies revealed assault wounds which could have been inflicted on purpose.

“It is generally assumed if a boy dies in an initiation school, he died from a circumcision. A task team is needed to investigate these deaths,” he said, adding that the number of casualties rose to 22 on Friday following the death of an initiate from Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo district.

Kupelo stated that an examination on the body of a 16-year old found numerous scars on his back and hands while his arms appeared to have been mutilated or stabbed.

He also stated that the biggest challenge remains a lack of information as many parents remain hesitant to inform authorities.

“The department has attempted to approach parents in this regard, to opening murder charges with the police, but they are divided on such action,” Kupelo said.

“It remains their responsibility to lay charges with the police. They become aware and sometimes before we even assess the bodies, they will tell us their child may have died”.

Deputy Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Obed Bapela, has meanwhile confirmed that around 1 100 boys had so far been saved from illegal initiation schools and that an effort to track down more would continue.

“This is what we don’t like to see; our culture being undermined, ridiculed and becoming a laughing stock,” he said after visiting the province yesterday.