The cultural, religious and linguistic rights commission has suspended initiation schools for a year in four regions of the Eastern Cape, especially where deaths occurred, until all compliance-related matters are comprehensively addressed.
On Thursday, the commission also called for the removal of initiates following the death of 23 of their peers from a number of factors, including dehydration.
Commission chairperson Professor David Mosoma said it had observed “with dismay that, in given instances, the cultural practice of initiation robs families and communities of young people who either die or suffer genital amputation”.
“The deaths of initiates are clearly a violation of the sanctity of human life. The true and authentic traditional practice of initiation must be measured and judged by its ability to care and preserve the lives of the young initiates.
“The deaths and amputations suffered by these young men can never be tolerated, especially considering the fact that during the same period last year about 17 boys had lost their lives,” said Mosoma.
The commission strongly believes these challenges and deaths could have been prevented if all stakeholders had adhered to the guidelines and recommendations which were extensively shared with government departments and NGOs.
Some of the major concerns are the continued kidnapping and abduction of children to illegal initiation schools, ongoing criminal activities disguised as initiation activities, and the unwillingness by some police stations to enforce the laws, especially when cases of missing children have been reported.
“We appeal and call upon all traditional leaders to address the causes of death of initiates in their care at all the initiation schools throughout the country.
“The commission calls upon all the key players in this space to do everything in their power to promote the sanctity, preservation and protection of life. Further, the commission calls upon all law enforcement agencies to bring to book those who have been responsible for the loss of lives.”.
Mosoma called for the rescue and removal of initiates who were still at the centres where deaths occurred, as well as engagement with the various structures to address the abuse and commercialisation of the practice.
He appealed to fathers, guardians and uncles to be available and accompany their boys during the initiation season and address criminality at some of the initiation schools.
“Culture does not kill. Everyone has the right to life. We therefore implore our communities to refrain from using culture as an instrument of death because where there is death the community mourns,” Mosoma said.