The year 2016, like all others has seen many young men and women across the country embarking on a journey and a traditional rite of passage that has been part of our people for generations. This rite of passage marks the entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense, it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into playing a new role in society having being educated, mentored and trained to become a responsible adult.
With the above background in mind, initiation schools are still and continue to be important for our communities restoring dignity and pride to the African people. As government, we will continue to support communities to practice their own cultures and traditions, including initiation in a secure environment. It is everyone’s duty to continue to support and mentor young men and women to become part of the better society we are all striving to build.
Initiation is indeed a good story to tell and we can teach our younger generations about this important this as part of our cultures and traditions. This important story of initiation is however overshadowed sometimes by the negative trends that continues to beset this practice such as commercialisation of this cultural practice, deaths, injuries and greed. The 2016 winter initiation season saw more young men added to the unfortunate list that we all wish it did not exist. Despite government's interventions, these tragic incidents seem to persist.
In pursuit of the “Zero Deaths” campaign during the initiation seasons, parents were urged to ensure that their children are medically prepared, schools duly registered, the traditional surgeons and caregivers are adequately prepared to avert these tragic fatalities. Government and all the stakeholders – national, provincial and local government, non-government organisations, Amakhosi and communities have been working tirelessly to ensure the safety of initiates and to fight the scourge of deaths, abuse and assaults of initiates.
The Department of Traditional Affairs drafted a policy on the customary practice of initiation which aims to provide acceptable norms and standards, protect initiates from death, injury and to ensure role players accept responsibility, ensure effective co-ordination and monitoring. Provincial government continues to strengthen their measures to curb further fatalities. These measures will be complemented by the legislation that will soon be approved by Cabinet to ensure tough measures are taken to deal with those who are using this important practice for their own selfish benefit.
Although there are deaths and injuries recorded, these measures put in place by government working with stakeholders have reversed the chilling figures we have seen previously, but we still maintain that one death is one too many. We had hoped that no death would be recorded, but unfortunately we still continue to experience challenges especially with regard to bogus initiation schools where most of injuries and deaths occur.
We are pleading with all stakeholders to ensure that all the enrolled initiates return home alive in this season. Let’s get involved to sustain the slogan – “Zero tolerance to initiation deaths”. The message should be clear, those who use this important cultural practice of our people to enrich themselves, have no place in our communities. Let us all alert the authorities about bogus initiation schools and those that abduct our children, thus disgracing this important part of our tradition.
We don’t believe that it is all doom and gloom, as it is sometimes reported. We however regret the loss of life in this summer initiation season. Thus far, the Eastern Cape Province has recorded the highest number of deaths and all stakeholders are working tirelessly with all role-players to curb this challenge.
The EC Province – 17 deaths
The NC Province – 1 death and 4 amputations
The NW Province – 1 death
The WC Province – 4 deaths
We commend all stakeholders on the ground who are working tirelessly in a coordinated manner to identify challenges and rescue those in distress. On 12 December 2016, 22 female initiates were rescued from illegal initiation schools at De Deur and Evaton in Sedibeng.
The teams will continue to monitor the situation across the country throughout the current initiation season. We are urging communities, especially parents, care givers or legal guardians to play their part and support our zero deaths approach during this initiation season – enough is enough.
Distributed by APO on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of Government Communication and Information.
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