‘Torture’ initiation schools shut down

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iol news pic initiation generic Independent Newspapers Limpopo has crafted a bill that will see illegal circumcision school operators face a R20 000 fine or a jail term. File photo: Independent Newspapers

Northern Cape - All initiation schools in the Hartswater district have been shut down after the plight of a 17-year-old boy, whose feet had to be amputated, and the death of an initiate who was assaulted and pelted with burning coals when they fled from the schools, were highlighted in the DFA.

This is according to the chairman of the Hartswater community policing forum, Somuel Matholengwe, who on Thursday said the blanket closure would apply to both illegal and registered initiation schools.

Matholengwe added that a task team was monitoring the area to prevent further deaths or injury to more initiates.

Police spokesman, Lieutenant Sergio Kock, indicated that follow-up meetings would be held with stakeholders in the near future.

He said that the investigations into the assault and murder charges at the Hartswater initiation school following the arrest of 15 accused as well as the attempted murder case that was opened in Pampierstad, were continuing.

Chairman of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Pule Bareki, stated that the death of the initiate, Gabaediwe Motsage, 22, at the initiation school in Hartswater, had prompted the decision to shut down the schools until further notice.

“The Provincial Act regulating initiation schools has not been finalised yet and regulations need to be put in place so that schools adhere to health and safety requirements.”

Bareki added that this only applied to the Phokwane municipal district which was identified as a trouble area.

“The task team was formulated to investigate how illegal initiation schools came into possession of permits from the municipality and who processed these permits. We will also look into the hesitation of the police in rescuing the initiates when requested to do so by their parents, prior to Motsage’s death. The police failed to take action when they were prevented from entering the initiation school.” He stated that the municipal by-laws had been ineffective in preventing Motsage’s death.

“There were mistakes on both sides – the police and the municipality – and these need to be investigated. We hope to submit our findings by February 15 but further meetings will take place before that date.”

Bareki indicated that they had also instructed the Phokwane municipal manager to ensure that Kabelo Mokgweetse, whose feet had to be amputated after being beaten and burnt, received the necessary medical care.

“We also advised that the surviving young women at the initiation school, who were forced to eat burning coals and brutally assaulted, be provided with counselling and medical assistance.”

Spokesman for the Department of Social Development, Tebogo Mokae, said the young women were being kept at a place of safety after the initiation school was closed down.

“Those that attend school have returned home although we are providing them with ongoing emotional support, including counselling and psychological and psychiatric assistance, depending on the level of trauma experienced.”

The Phokwane Municipality mayor was reportedly engaged in meetings the entire day and did not respond to questions.

The Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), also failed to comment.

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