Bhiso - Families and communities have a role to play in keeping initiates safe, Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle said in Bhisho on Wednesday.
“It should be emphasised that whilst the practice of traditional initiation is not only the responsibility of government, rather a family and societal matter... we decided to intervene to save lives lost due to negligence, criminal elements and the commercialisation of the practice.”
The provincial government's initiation school monitoring teams had noted that families and communities were not adequately involved in the initiation process.
There was insufficient co-ordination of activities aimed at making initiation schools safer, and the province had seen a “mushrooming” of illegal schools.
“As the leadership of the province, we are noting with concern that since the launch of the season, 24 young lives have been lost in the traditional rite of passage to mould boys into responsible men,” Masualle said.
On Tuesday, the provincial health department however put the figure at 25. It could not immediately be reached for confirmation of the figure.
Government was pursuing a number of measures aimed at reducing initiate deaths. This included centralisation of initiation schools, under the care of trained traditional nurses, in areas most affected by initiate deaths.
Boys would be registered before undergoing initiation rites, and this would be monitored by the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders.
“Government will soon be finalising the Traditional Initiation Bill which, amongst other things, seeks to put in place a regulatory framework to eliminate the commercialisation of the custom and illegal traditional initiation schools.”
The bill would be finalised by the end of September, he said.