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Mthatha - The number of initiates who have died in the Eastern Cape since the beginning of the winter initiation season has risen to 25, the province's health department said on Tuesday.
“The number of those admitted to hospital is 61,” spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said.
“In one village outside Mbizana, Madiba village, an initiation school was allegedly attacked by a group of other initiates from another tribe last night.”
Thirteen boys escaped uninjured, and the initiation school was burned down.
“It is still being investigated. There are forums operating in the area and they are working with police to address the situation.”
The Community Development Foundation of SA had built a rescue centre in Lusikisiki, which was currently housing 132 boys.
Another rescue centre was being built in Libode.
The worst affected area remained Mthatha in the OR Tambo region.
“What they 1/8initiation schools 3/8 need to do is avoid or burn this habit of denying initiates water, because that leads to dehydration,” Kupelo said.
The winter initiation season was expected to come to an end when public schools re-open in the province on July 21.
“The portfolio committee for health in the provincial legislature visited the rescue centre in Lusikisiki yesterday and also Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital on a fact-finding mission,” Kupelo said.
“They are expected to compile a report, table it and forward it to the department with their findings.”
Kupelo said the department continued to offer its support to initiation season custodians.
“Our role is limited to health and we support the custodians of the customs to keep things under control,” he said.
He said Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa were expected to address the media on the issue on Wednesday.