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Johannesburg - The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is investigating the events which led to the death of a woman at a Northern Cape initiation school, it said on Tuesday.
The 22-year-old woman, Gabaediwe Motsage, died after being tortured with burning coals and stoned at the Hartswater school in December. The Democratic Alliance asked the SAHRC to investigate.
“They believe that the death of one initiate could have been avoided had the local police acted swiftly after concerned parents asked the police for assistance in freeing their children, and in shutting down the school,” said SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena.
The Saturday Star reported that, when the police went there, the people running the school freed other woman initiates who were unable to eat, speak or walk. The school was shut down.
According to the newspaper, it was believed that initiates who were unable to pay their fees were enlisted as workers and instructed to pursue Motsage and force her to return to the school after she fled.
The Saturday Star reported that the community claimed children were kidnapped and kept hostage, and that some were forced to eat sandwiches filled with faeces.
Four women, a man and nine minors were arrested and charged with murder and assault.
The SAHRC said it had sent a team of investigators to the area to gather evidence. Mangena called on the authorities to bring those responsible to book.
He said initiation schools were part of the country's cultural practices and were protected by the Constitution, as cultural educational institutions.
“However, initiation schools, like any other school, operate under laws to ensure the safety of initiates,” he said.
“The laws also deal with the observation of health standards, granting of the permission for operation of the initiation school, and granting of the permission to circumcise. Parental consent is also provided for.”
Mangena said the laws also protected women against violation.
The DA said it was formulating proposals to present to the province's premier and the health department on how the schools could be improved.
All 14 of those arrested applied for bail in the Hartswater Magistrate's Court on January 23.
Police said at the time that three of the adults were granted bail of R500 each, and two were denied bail. The children were released into the care of their parents. The case was postponed until February 20. - Sapa