Concern at Eastern Cape initiation deaths

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has expressed deep sadness at the death of 23 initiates in the Eastern Cape.

According to media reports, the deaths occurred at both registered and illegal initiation schools. The figure was an increase from the 14 deaths recorded in the same period in 2020.

In a statement, the Minister said initiation is “a noble African custom that represents a rite of passage into adulthood that should be characterised by celebrations, not sorrow”.

She said initiation schools played an important role in cultural heritage, and as such, “must at all material times be institutions of cultural preservation and pride”.

“The practice of initiation is an age-old practice that has been conducted safely for many years. Collaboratively as society and government, we must ensure that the lives of initiates are safeguarded as they participate in this noble customary practice.

“This calamity comes at a time when the country is confronted with surging numbers of COVID-19 infections attributed to the Omicron variant, which requires everyone to remain cautious and observe all health protocols,” she said on Wednesday.

Dlamini Zuma said the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities will convene stakeholders in an effort to save lives and to avert further casualties in initiation schools.

“CoGTA will monitor developments and work with other stakeholders and role players involved with this important traditional practice in an effort to save lives,” she said.

The Minister called upon all role players, especially the custodians of cultural practices working with health practitioners, to put in place the necessary preventative measures to avoid further casualties. –​

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