The Department of Traditional Affairs says a total number of 5 572 initiates were hospitalised upon their return from initiation schools and 231 had their manhood amputated only in the Eastern Cape during winter and summer seasons of 2006 to 2014.
Abraham Sithole from the Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA) told the CRL Rights Commission on Wednesday that 394 363 legal and 21 491 illegal initiates were recorded, 532 died and 263 suspects were arrested in the Eastern Cape during that period. He said the death rate could be higher, because some are buried at the schools.
The DTA formed part of State organs that appeared before the commission and Sithole said no deaths or assaults are supposed to occur and youngster should not be offered drugs or alcohol at these schools.
However, it emerged criminals have invaded culture and turned initiation schools into recruitment places for gangsters in different areas around Sedibeng District in the Vaal.
The Commission’s community councillor and Vaal TV/Radio producer, Dipuo Moholane said gangs such as Wrong Turns in Sebokeng, Mopheme in Bophelong, Diamonds in Boipatong, Mambasa, Alaska and Born to Kill in Boitumelo were mostly formed at such schools.
Moholane said these youngsters have become drug addicts who terrorise the community, rob them off their belongings, gang rape young girls and assault their parents.
“The kids go to initiation schools being normal children, but return home as a gangsters. These gangsters have gone to a point whereby if one of the boys likes your daughter, they just walk into your house with guns, abduct and rape her. The problem started in 2011 and the community has been complaining to the municipality and the police and nothing is being done,” said Moholane.
In retaliation, the community burnt down 12 houses and shacks and assaulted the initiates.
Sithole said culturally boys can only be taken to initiation schools at the ages of 16 and above, not below and initiations are conducted by experienced people who are over the age of 40 with the permission of family members and not abducted as it is the case in the Vaal.
General Zodwa Mofokeng of Sedibeng SAPS Cluster Office said these schools are led by young men between the ages of 18 and 20 and abduct and initiate kids from the age of 12 to 14.
Mofokeng confirmed that gangs are formed and youngsters are grievously assaulted by leaders at these schools. She said cases of murder, kidnapping and inquest are opened but withdrawn or closed due to fear of being victimised.
Mofokeng and officials from Sedibeng District Municipality said from November 28 to end do December, 166 children both males and females were reported missing, 69 were traced at illegal initiation schools. She said 84 young women were found at illegal initiation schools and 15 boys were hospitalised.