Limpopo - Chief PJ Mahlangu of the Ndebele nation faces criminal charges over the deaths of six initiates in Limpopo.
This comes after he defied Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale by illegally opening initiation schools at which the six died.
The Star can reveal that Mathale denied Mahlangu’s request to operate initiation schools during their meeting on April 24.
But Mahlangu went ahead and opened the schools out of respect for traditional practices.
A source at the Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) Department said MEC Clifford Motsepe plans to open criminal charges against Mahlangu.
On Thursday, the chief, through his spokesman, Mbusi Mahlangu, admitted to operating 137 illegal initiation schools.
“We want to apologise to the premier and the MEC for not complying with the law, but we had to protect our culture,” said Mbusi.
He said communities had insisted that the initiation schools be opened.
Contrary to Mbusi’s claims that the death toll stands at three, Limpopo police said six initiates had died.
Mahlangu had first met the Limpopo House of Traditional Leaders, which turned him down, before he approached Mathale.
Mathale’s spokeswoman, Mashadi Mathosa, confirmed the meeting but would not divulge what was discussed.
According to an insider at the Coghsta, Mahlangu insisted on opening the schools in the first week of this month, while the initiation schools in Limpopo are set to officially open only on June 14.
Operators whose applications for permits have been approved will be announced next week.
“(Mahlangu) did not even apply. They just decided to go ahead,” said the source.
Another source said illegal initiation schools, which operate in Limpopo near the Mpumalanga border, were sanctioned by King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele monarchy. This could not be independently verified.