Kimberley - The 2013 winter initiation season in the Northern Cape has claimed the life of a teenage initiate who died at an illegal initiation school near Windsorton.
Godfrey Barend, 19, died in his sleep earlier this week after apparently feeling dizzy the night before.
The incident comes barely a week after the Deputy Minister of Police, Makhotso Maggie Sotyu, shut down 15 illegal initiation schools in the Phokwane municipal area.
The schools were found to be operating illegally and a total of 115 initiates were transported from various schools to the local hospital where they received medical treatment while three of them had to be hospitalised.
On Thursday, the Barend family told the DFA how their child was “abducted and killed” allegedly by the traditional surgeon and his assistants, who operated an initiation school from Rooibult farm in the Windsorton area.
“The traditional surgeons at that illegal initiation school have left me with so much pain because not only did they abduct my child, they also stole my money, goat and the clothes I had bought for him to wear when he came out of that school this Saturday,” Barend’s mother, Martha said, as she wept.
“Those traditional surgeons also forced me to buy sheep, to brew sorghum beer and prepare other important things to welcome my child back home, but now they have killed him. I am now left without a child and deep in debt. I want my child.”
Martha also said that Barend disappeared from their home in Barkly West on June 14, a day after he had told her that he wanted to go to the initiation school.
“On June 13, he told me about his wish to go to the initiation school but I told him that I did not want him to go there because I did not have the money for the things that they would demand from me.
“However, the next day when I arrived at home coming from work, he was no longer at home. I asked my mother (Sannie Barend, 73), who lives with us, about his whereabouts and she told me that she had seen him with a group of other teenagers somewhere in town,” Barend said.
She was later told by her son’s friend that he had joined the initiation school.
“But the fact is that the operators of that illegal school abducted him because they never came to me to ask for permission to take him.
“We would have called the police to go fetch him by force but we thought that they would not be able to do so because we are told that once the child is in the school he cannot be taken out because he could be cursed,” Martha added.
She pointed out that the leaders of the initiation school, three men and a woman, came to her house a few days after her son joined the school and demanded that she give them money, a goat, food and clothes for Barend.
“I told them straight in their faces that they abducted my child and that they would not get anything from me since I did not have the things that they demanded.
“They threatened me, saying that if I did not have the items they demanded, my child will not succeed in anything that he does because he will be cursed. I was forced to borrow money and use my whole month’s salary to purchase all the items that they wanted,” Martha added.
She said that despite her child dying on Tuesday, the operators of the initiation school tried to hide the truth from her for some time while they demanded money, a goat and her child’s clothes from her.
“Those traditional surgeons only came to my house on Wednesday morning to fetch my child’s clothes but they never told me that my child was dead.
“Instead they came back in the evening while I was not at home to pick up my mom and take her to Windsorton Police Station where she learnt about Godfrey’s death,” Martha said.
Sannie said that she was made to sit in the bakkie outside the police station for hours before being told of her grandson’s death.
“The traditional surgeons tried to avoid telling me what was happening, opting instead to walk in and out of the police station and appearing to be busy on their cell phones. It was only later when I started asking them why we were at the police station that I was told me of my grandson’s death,” Sannie said.
Martha added that they would be opening a case against the traditional surgeon and his associates.
Northern Cape police spokesman, Lieutenant Sergio Kock, said that they had opened an inquest docket relating to Barend’s death.
“It is alleged that the initiate died in his sleep while at an initiation school situated in the Windsorton area. An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death and the results will form part of the police’s investigation,” Kock added.
Although the DFA was also told of another teenager in the area who was admitted to the Kimberley Hospital due to serious injuries that he sustained at the same initiation school in Rooibult farm, efforts to get his name and his family were not successful on Thursday.
Diamond Fields Advertiser