The South African government has reiterated its continued support for communities to practise their own cultures and traditions, including initiation, in a secure environment.

This comes after the 2016 winter initiation season saw more young men losing their lives, despite the government’s interventions to prevent this. The initiation includes circumcision of the youths as part of the rites of passage to manhood.

In pursuit of the “Zero Deaths” campaign during initiation seasons, parents are urged to ensure that their children are medically prepared, schools duly registered, and the traditional surgeons and caregivers are adequately prepared to avert these tragic fatalities.

The government and all the stakeholders — national, provincial and local governments, non-government organizations (NGOs), Amakhosi (tribal leaders) 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 had 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.

“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 department said in a statement Thursday.

“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.”

Deaths at initiation schools were reported as follows: Eastern Cape, 17 deaths; Northern Cape Province, one death and four amputations; North West Province, one death; and Western Cape Province, one death.


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