Department rescues more than 100 initiates, closes bogus schools

Three suspects were arrested when North West police rescued 40 boys at an illegal initiation school outside Mahikeng. Picture: SAPS

Three suspects were arrested when North West police rescued 40 boys at an illegal initiation school outside Mahikeng. Picture: SAPS

Published Jul 8, 2024


The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in North West has confirmed that it has rescued more than 100 initiates who were found at various illegal initiation schools.

According to news reports, the department has also effected the closure of some of the bogus initiation schools that have been operating without the necessary permits in the province.

Initiation season is under way in South Africa.

The closure of the schools was conducted alongside other provincial stakeholders, among them the Provincial Initiation Coordinating Committee (PICC) and the (SAPS.

The SABC has reported that at least 13 initiates were rescued from illegal initiation schools in Lichtenburg and Coligny, while others were rescued from illegal initiation schools in Moretele, Tigane, Mahikeng and Madibogo, among others.

Speaking to the SABC, PICC chairperson Kgosi Godfrey Ramosetlho Gasebone slammed non-compliance of some of the schools and their principals which, he said had resulted in an increase of illegal schools and the deaths of two initiates.

“The PICC has been conducting oversight visits throughout the province since the beginning of the winter season. We have closed down at least 17 illegal initiation schools and have opened cases against some of the principals,” he said.

In the past, the National Department of Health has condemned some of the initiation schools for their ignoring the norms and standards governing initiation which, at times, have resulted in preventable deaths.

To regulate the initiation practice, the government introduced the Customary Initiation Act, 2021 (Act 2 of 2021), which became effective in September 2021 and requires that “an initiation school must be registered at least three months prior to the commencement of an initiation season, and such registration is valid only for a specific initiation season indicated on the registration certificate”.

The department says the act provides for the establishment of an 11-member National Initiation Oversight Committee to monitor the implementation of the act and promote compliance with its provisions by all role players involved in initiation practices and initiation schools. It also provides for the establishment of provincial initiation co-ordinating committees and the norms and standards regarding age and health requirements.

It guards against harmful practices and mandates the involvement of parents to give consent before a circumcision is performed.

More importantly, the department, says the act also strengthens the integrated approach between health institutions and cultural practitioners to ensure the safety of initiates.

“As we approach the upcoming winter initiation season between May and July, we must be vigilant against illegal initiation schools and safeguard the lives of young boys. Responsible initiation schools will not take any young boy without the consent of their parents and they operate only within official health guidelines.

“Initiates should be treated with dignity and allowed to have access to medical care while at initiation schools. Of particular concern are unqualified traditional surgeons and schools not adhering to stringent quality health standards during circumcision, which invariably leads to initiates either dying or left permanently disfigured,” the department said in a statement before the new season.