15/12/2015. New minister of co-operative governance and traditional affairs David van Rooyen address the media during his first media briefing in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Northern Cape - Three initiates have died in the Northern Cape as a result of heat exhaustion since the start of the summer initiation season in November.

The death toll from botched circumcisions has risen to 43 nationwide.

Xhanti Teki, media liaison officer of the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs, on Thursday confirmed the three deaths of initiates in the Northern Cape due to heat exhaustion which he attributed to the soaring heat conditions.

Two of the deaths were in the Pixley ka Seme District and one in the Frances Baard District.

The department further stated on Thursday that an interdict has been sought against an illegal initiation school in Dithakong.

“The interdict was served to the respondent on December 11. The intention of championing the legal avenue is to clamp down on illegal initiation schools.”

Teki added that the Draft Northern Cape Initiation Bill, which will legally regulate the practice, was currently being processed and it was expected that it would be promulgated in 2016.

Newly appointed Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, David van Rooyen, told reporters in Pretoria earlier this week that the death toll from initiation schools nationally had risen to 43 which he added was “totally unacceptable”.

The Eastern Cape reported 30 deaths, followed by the Free State (six), Northern Cape (three), Western Cape (two), Gauteng and North West (one each).

Van Rooyen said the circumcision ritual faces challenges which include abductions, kidnappings, and the mushrooming of illegal and unregistered schools.

“We are working with various stakeholders across various sectors to ensure that our young men can undergo this rite of passage in a safe manner,” the minister said.

He urged parents and guardians to send their young men to registered initiation schools. These schools, he said, should abide by the rules and regulations initiated by the Department of Health.

“We are also working with the Department of Health on awareness campaigns to prepare for the next seasons,” Van Rooyen said.

He pledged commitment to engaging all stakeholders in the local government sector, from traditional leaders, NGOs to business communities, and expanding on partnerships that have been developed over the years.

“We look forward to engaging with the South African Local Government Association and the labour movements to ensure they play their meaningful role so that we can all execute on what needs to be accomplished together,” Van Rooyen said.

Illegal initiation rituals, which do not meet health and safety standards, claim many lives in South Africa every year. Between 2005 and 2015, more than 500 initiates have died while 300 have lost their manhood, official statistics show.

According to local custom, circumcisions are normally viewed as a traditional passage for a young boy to enter manhood.

Traditional leaders and local authorities have been campaigning to ensure that circumcisions meet stringent health and safety standards.

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