Initiates take part in the rite of passage commonly referred to as ulwaluko or “going to the mountain” in Qunu, Eastern Cape. The Somagwaza Institute, the initiation forum in the Western Cape, says it is prepared for the upcoming summer initiation season. REUTERS African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - As young boys count down the weeks to when they embark on their journey to become men, the provincial Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport is two shakes of a duck’s tale away from securing an injury- and death-free initiation season.

By the end of December last year, two deaths had been recorded in the Western Cape, and one in the Northern Cape.

Spokesperson for the department, Tania Colyn, confirmed the department was prepared for the November to January initiation season, and had established initiation forums for communities practising the rite of passage.

The forums were “initial points of contact” with which communities were required to interact.

Chairperson of the Driftsands Initiation Forum, Thomas Zoyisile Mlilo, said the forums “have aided the process and continue to ensure few or no deaths occur during the two initiation seasons of each year”.

There are winter and summer initiation seasons.

Initiation forum the Somagwaza Institute said it was ready for the upcoming summer initiation season, and was confidant no deaths would take place in the province.

Hundreds of boys are expected to place their lives in the hands of iingcibi (traditional surgeons) at the only two zoned initiation areas in the city.

Sikelela Zokufa, from the Somagwaza Institute, told Weekend Argus the “Western Cape is ready for the coming December initiation season; we have made plans and adjustments where needed. We have about 30 trained traditional circumcision surgeons under the Somagwaza Institute, and more than 90 amakhankatha (carers) who are well trained in health-related issues on the mountain”.

The surgeons had also undergone first-aid training.

According to Zokufa, there have been nine deaths in the province over the past three initiation seasons.

Drug addiction, fits and dehydration were the most common causes of death among initiates.

“The June season went very well in the Western Cape, with zero deaths and no hospitalised initiates. We were closely monitoring our initiates and had a professional doctor, who visited the sites when needed,” Zokufa said.

The Somagwaza Institute urged parents to book initiation places for their sons in time, send them for health-screening and give the medical history of their sons to surgeons. “Three dangerous things we need to know about are fits, asthma and drug addiction,” Zokufa said.

As part of their safety plan, the department provides information to the caregivers of initiates, facilitates first-aid training sessions for carers, and helps set up meetings where initiation forums can meet to discuss issues related to initiation.

“The Western Cape had no reported deaths of initiates at registered initiation sites in the past winter season,” said Colyn.

At the end of December last year, there had been 20 initiate deaths recorded in the Eastern Cape, eight in Free State and three in North West.

Weekend Argus