Johannesburg - The alleged culprits responsible for the deaths of 29 initiates in Mpumalanga could finally be arrested soon.
This comes after the provincial Health Department and House of Traditional Leaders resolved to allow the police to press charges against the alleged perpetrators.
The resolution is contained in a report into the deaths of the initiates, which was released on Tuesday.
“The department and the House of Traditional Leaders have agreed to allow the SAPS to execute their functions without any hindrances. This includes investigating and laying appropriate charges on those found to have contravened the law,” reads the report.
The Star reported last month that inexperienced and bogus traditional surgeons were using a single razor blade to circumcise multiple initiates, which exposed them to life-threatening diseases, including HIV/Aids. The paper also reported that there were cases of botched circumcisions and drunk monitors who left initiates unattended.
The deaths occurred in the Nkangala district towns of Siyabuswa, KwaMhlanga, Verena, Kwaggafontein, Middelburg, Bethal and Evander, which fall under King Mabhoko III of the Ndebele people.
At least six more initiates died in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district, although the amakhosana (junior traditional leaders) there fall under Mabhoko.
The deaths drew nationwide condemnation, including from President Jacob Zuma and civil rights organisations.
The report, which revealed damning evidence of gross irregularities by traditional surgeons, found that some of the amakhosana had forged permits to run illegal schools.
“There were many emerging initiation schools… not sanctioned by the Ingwenyama (King) Mabhoko III. It was discovered that some of the amakhosana duplicated their permits to have other schools that were illegal,” the report reads.
The report found that permit holders used old (expired) ingoma (permits) and that inexperienced traditional surgeons were used.
It also found there was gross negligence by traditional surgeons.
There were also instances of a lack of regular monitoring by the ingoma holders, the use of inexperienced caregivers, and a lack of proper supervision by caregivers.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Captain Leonard Hlathi said dockets had been submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority to decide whether to prosecute.
“We have not yet arrested anybody because our decision will be informed by the NPA,” he said, adding that only 27 of the 29 dockets were murder cases. Two of the dockets are inquest reports as they (dead initiates) had complained of stomach aches (before they died).”
The report also identified the use of drugs by some initiates and those with chronic ailments not taking prescribed medication as among the causes of the deaths.
In all, the report found there were 30 000 initiates undergoing the ritual in 134 initiation schools.
To prevent future deaths, the report recommended that all prospective initiates must first undergo medical tests.
Political commentator and gender activist Nomboniso Gasa questioned the commitment of the Mpumalanga government and senior traditional leaders to addressing the problem.
“We have known the problems of illegal schools and unqualified circumcisers for many years. So why has this not been addressed to prevent these and many other deaths?” Gasa said.