File photo: Itumeleng English/INLSA

Traditional leaders in Khayelitsha have been left scrambling for land to use for this winter’s initiation season after the City began clearing bushes at the corner of Mew Way and Spine Road for R73 million MyCiTi bus depots.

Other sites used for this centuries-old practice have either been invaded by people who erected structures or had trees cut down, making them no longer considered suitable.

At the time, when the City secured the site recently, an initiate had been undergoing his rite of passage, which is performed privately.

The area where the initiation took place was cordoned off to give him privacy, according to urban development mayoral committee member Brett Herron.

He said the workmen avoided that part of the area until the initiation process was concluded on May 25.

The site where the City is constructing the multimillion-rand project is the only major remaining site suitable for initiation in Khayelitsha following major land invasions. The nearest site is along the N2 near Mandalay.

Traditional leaders said they feel the government was not doing enough to preserve their culture.

The City’s work include internal earthworks; perimeter fencing to secure the site; bulk link services to the site for the provision of water; sanitation and electricity; as well as the upgrade of surrounding roads, said Herron.

Khayelitsha Cultural Forum chairperson Tobile Mtotywa said: “We feel helpless. Year after year the sites we are using for this practice is being taken away from us.

“There was an engagement about the site in question, but there were no alternatives provided.

“It is as if this what we are doing does not have value, but we as isiXhosa-speaking people preserve this ritual.

“The City is sending us to the provincial government and the province sends us back to the City, this is confusing.”

Khayelitsha Development Forum chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said all spheres of government should have “a thorough public participation process to have all views” before any development could take place on “sacred” land.

“The City of Cape Town must value public participation, especially over sensitive issues like this. There is no land for initiation schools. We are in trouble,” said Tyhido.

He said at the end of this month there will be a summit to discuss, among other issues, the scarcity of land for initiation school.

Asked whether the City had made any land available for the use of initiation schools, Herron said: “While the provision of sites for initiation does not fall within the mandate of the City, we are very respectful and supportive of the custom.

“To the City’s knowledge initiation schools are, at times, using a location opposite from the site where we are currently busy with the enabling works.”

“This means that we are and have been willing to assist the appropriate departments with access to City-owned sites that may be identified as appropriate for initiation.”

The City had insisted that the Cape Times approach the national Department of Public Works on questions of land availability for initiation.

However, Public Works Department spokesperson Bukiwe Mgobozi said her department has “nothing to do with initiation”.

Then Herron said the provincial Cultural Affairs and Sport Department was the lead agency once land has been identified, but the department referred questions back to the City.

Cultural Affairs and Sport Department spokesperson Tania Colyn said municipalities were the “lead role-player in identifying and making land available for initiation”.

“Support for initiation in the Western Cape is according to the Initiation Framework and Protocol. In terms of the Initiation Framework and Protocol of the Western Cape, initiation is practised within the boundaries of municipalities.

“Municipalities are to ensure the provision of the necessary infrastructure, such as land, clean water and sites for initiation. Formal agreements should be entered into between groups or individuals responsible for initiation and municipalities,” said Colyn.

When asked to comment, the City said: “The City has identified a number of areas for initiation schools, in consultation with Initiation Forums, in places such as Delft, Driftsands, Khayelitsha, Lwandle, Langa and Mfuleni.”

The sites the City referred to, including the one under construction, were either previously invaded or no longer considered suitable.

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