Picture: Siegfried Modola/Reuters
Picture: Siegfried Modola/Reuters

Initiation ban: ‘We don’t need permission’

By Siviwe Feketha Time of article published Nov 26, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has pointed out it was rallying behind those who were preparing to send the children to summer initiation schools, despite its continued ban by the government.

This comes as Contralesa is at loggerheads with Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Deputy Minister Obed Bapela over his call on citizens to obey the continued suspension.

Bapela had on Sunday warned the government would not “tolerate bogus initiation schools and anyone who is found to be disobeying the order of initiation suspension in the wake of Covid-19”.

Following its meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday Contralesa, however, rejected Bapela’s statement on the initiation ban for December and instead called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire him.

Cotralesa president Kgosi Mathupa Mokoena said traditional leaders were pushing ahead for boys to go to the mountain despite the calls for the suspension of initiation.

“We don’t need any permission from anyone to practise our culture. This culture will continue with or without anyone and we support the stance taken by our colleagues in the Eastern Cape that parents must start preparing and that our boys must go to the mountain,” Mokoena said.

In May, the winter initiation season was banned with the support of traditional leaders due to fears that the annual deaths and hospitalisation of hundreds of initiates would undermine the fight against Covid-19.

He said Contralesa and the Eastern Cape House of Traditional leaders had already given proposals to the government on how to ensure a safe initiation summer season under the new normal.

“We are going to scale down the number and we said any person who will be given a permit to open a school must follow all the Covid-19 protocols,” he said.

Cogta was continuing to enforce a crackdown on those who continued to take boys to the mountain despite the ban, especially in the Eastern Cape.

Bapela’s spokesperson Unathi Sityatha pointed out that the deputy minister was representing the position of government as initiation remained prohibited.

“Contralesa has the right to speak on behalf of traditional leaders, but according to the government, initiation remains prohibited in terms of the regulations and that is what the minister was saying,” Sityatha said.

With illegal schools and deaths of initiates being reported already, Contralesa warned that the ban on initiation would open up space for bogus schools that were difficult to monitor.

Contralesa general secretary Zolani Mkiva said the summer initiation season had to be allowed under strict guidelines and regulations, with support of personal protective equipment.

“Churches have reopened and leisure events are happening. Alcohol is on sale, and big bashes are being hosted all over the country. Given all this, there is no rationale or justification for a continued ban on initiation,” Mkiva said.

He said the move to indefinitely ban initiation was supported by those who wanted boys to take the route of male medical circumcision (MMC) as opposed to the traditional route.

“The reason why there is confusion in the administration is the interference with the centrality of the institution of traditional leadership in this issue because there are interests. There are people who are interested to destroy this practice in order for them to ensure that they create a commercial venture, which is MMC.”

Political Bureau

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