A group of initiates undergo the traditional rite of passage into manhood. 
Picture: Schalk van Zuydam/AP
Johannesburg – Four initiates, aged between 14 and 21, died after complications at initiation schools in KwaMhlanga, Kwaggafontein, Vosman and Belfast, Mpumalanga police said on Thursday.

"All the four initiates aged between 14 and 21, had complications that led to their deaths and a probe is underway," spokesman Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said.

"A preliminary investigation, discovered that one of the victims was 14-years-old, of which according to the Mpumalanga Ingoma Act 3 of 2011, no person under the age of 16 may attend an Ingoma as an initiate (umkhethwa)."

He said that the circumstances under which the teenager was admitted or accepted at that institution was the subject of their investigation. The Act states that a minor, may not attend an initiation school without his parents’ or legal guardians’ consent.

According to Schedule 2 of the Act, the consent must be accompanied by a medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner declaring that the minor is fit to participate in the traditional practice concerned. The consent should be submitted at the initiation school.

"In terms of the Act, any person who holds an Ingoma, must at all reasonable times for the duration of an Ingoma have the consent forms completed in terms of subsection (1), pertaining to the abakhethwa (initiates) attending an Ingoma, available for inspection," Hlathi said.

"The police urge parents to talk to their children not to go on their own to initiation institutions however, there must be a transaction between the parents and the owners of the initiation schools.

"On the same note, police also request the owners not to accept children who come on their own but must contact the parents before accepting them in terms of the Act."