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“Minister’s zero tolerance on initiation deaths has failed” - DA

“Minister’s zero tolerance on initiation deaths has failed” - DA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has accused Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Pravin Gordhan, of failing to sustain measures implemented to reduce the number of deaths during the winter initiation season.

A reported 24 initiates have so far died in the Eastern Cape with the worst hit being the OR Tambo district at 16 fatalities. Department of Health Spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, has stated that most of the deaths occurred at illegal initiation schools as a result of procedures being carried out by individuals unfamiliar with the practise.

Addressing the media shorty after visiting the St Barnabas Hospital in Libode and a nearby initiation school, earlier today, DA Shadow Minister for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nqaba Bhanga, said Gordhan’s “Zero Tolerance on Initiation Deaths” policy launched earlier this year, had backfired.

“In May this year the Department finally published a draft policy on the customary practice of initiation, however, for a draft policy document to culminate in legislation could take years,” Bhanga said.

“In addition to the delay in introducing national legislation, the Minister of Health has also failed for 12 years to promulgate regulations in terms of section 43(3) of the National Health Act, prescribing the conditions under which circumcisions may be carried out”.

He also stated that Gordhan’s appointment of a special task team to visit provinces and ensure that effective measures were implemented before the season began, had clearly met with little success as the national death toll had increased to 31.

“What we have been told today by the families of the injured and deceased initiates is truly shocking. Many of the boys were forced into the practice and we also heard that local traditional leaders forced many of the families into sending their boys against their will.

“We call on Minister Gordhan to report to the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the circumstances which led to the death of each initiate, the shortcomings of the task team and provincial monitoring teams and what action he will take to address the issues ahead of the 2015/16 summer initiation period,” Bhanga said, adding that the Minister must account to Parliament for the deaths.