28 December 2017

'Our children are dying in the mountains and this is no joke'

Traditional leaders are keen to end initiation deaths.

Traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape’s Alfred Nzo District have committed themselves to ensuring that a zero death rate of initiates is maintained this coming traditional initiation season.

The pledge was made during a recent safe initiation awareness campaign that took place at schools and traditional councils across the district.

Zero casualties

The main purpose of the campaign was to ensure that there are no casualties during upcoming summer season, to revive initiation working committees and ensure that all those involved were aware of the new Customary Male Initiation Practise Act of 2016.

The campaign was led by the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders and was a collaborative exercise between the house, traditional leaders, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Department of Health and the South African Police Service.

The target audience of the campaign was learners, traditional nurses, surgeons and the community at large, and carried a request to stop the commercialisation of tradition, which could put lives at risk.

Leaders must take responsibility

Every year young people embark on a summer initiation process in the mountains of the Eastern Cape.

One of the traditional council leaders, Chief Zelu Nompokhwe, said, "Our children are dying in the mountains and this is no joke. We need traditional leaders to take full responsibility and stop pretending that this tradition is the responsibility of government."

The new initiation act seeks to provide for the protection of life, the prevention of injuries and the prevention of physical and mental abuse of initiates; provide for traditional leadership to take primary responsibility for the practice of initiation, in partnership with government and other stakeholders; and to protect the customary practice of initiates and ensure constitutional and other legal prescripts are adhered to.

In the coming days, initiation schools across the Eastern Cape province will open to welcome young women and men initiates as they embark a path towards adulthood.

During the last winter season, the Eastern Cape reported 11 deaths of initiates. - Health-e News

Image credit: iStock