Land grabs and the sale of land have forced traditional leaders to ask SANParks for help to find land to perform initiation rituals.
The rise of land grabs and sale of land to private owners has left the traditional leaders forum with no choice but to seek help from SANParks.

Over the past three years the city has been marred by violent land grabs, some of land used to practise the rite of passage tradition of Xhosa boys into manhood.

The sale of land has also left the leaders in despair.

As a last resort, the leaders are set to approach SANParks to negotiate the possibility of allowing initiations to take place in the secluded bushy areas of Table Mountain.

The only remaining major site at the corner of Mew Way and Spine Road in Khayelitsha is being serviced for a R73 million MyCiTi bus depot.

The nearest site used for initiation is along the N2 near Mandalay and Kwezi Park. This pocket of land, too, was the scene of an attempted land invasion earlier this year.

The only other major site, which was known as the Goal site, now Marikana, was invaded in 2014.

Tania Colyn, spokesperson for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport for the Western Cape, said there were 33 sites for initiation in the province - 10 were in the city, but according to the leaders forum, only one was suitable for the practice.

“The sites affected by land invasion were two in the City of Cape Town, one in George Municipality and the fourth is where the bus service construction is under way.”

In 2014, land invaders from the Marikana informal settlement cut down bushes and trees at a site in Philippi East in a successful attempt to occupy the land, leaving initiates exposed to road users.

Before the occupation of one of the most suitable pieces of land, which was now the Marikana informal settlement, the site had been used by initiates from Gugulethu, Tambo Village, Nyanga, Crossroads and Philippi. These initiates have had to find alternative sites.

“Marikana was the biggest site and it was suitable for initiation because it was not exposed to the communities,” said a traditional surgeon.

Traditional leader and initiation surgeon Sikelela Zokufa, head of the traditional leaders forum, said the city did not respect or care for traditional practices and was not doing enough to preserve their culture.

Zokufa added that land grabs had put a strain on cultural practices as initiates were now exposed to the public, which was disrespectful to Xhosa culture.

“The invading of the sites by the communities shows disrespect and undermines our culture. It undermines the people who perform these cultural practices. We condemn that behaviour,” said Zokufa.

Tobile Mtotywa, Khayelitsha Cultural Forum chairperson, said year after year sites for initiation were being taken away either by government or land grabbers.

Two sites had now been identified, but were yet to be confirmed as suitable sites for initiation as they had not yet been rezoned.

Zokufa, one of the sites in question in Khayelithsha is owned by the Airports Company South Africa and is earmarked for the extension of the runway.

The other is between the airport and Delft.

Initiates are meant to be kept hidden and unexposed to the general public and, most importantly, to women.

But given the scarcity of land covered by bushes, many initiates can be seen running around covered only in their traditional blankets.

Zokufa said initiates should be far from the community, “in the heart of the bush” so they were seen only by men who had themselves undergone initiation.

This year’s winter initiation season has kicked off but the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport could not confirm the number of initiates at this stage.

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