More than 30 boys have died since the start of the summer initiation season in the Eastern Cape, with the number going from from 23 to 31 as of Tuesday.
This is already more than double last initiation season’s fatality rate of 14, and last week Daily Maverick reported that many of the initiates who have died recently succumbed to dehydration.
In one incident an 18 year-old boy drowned after being forced by ikhankatha (care-givers) to swim with other initiates, while many others have since been admitted to hospital.
The Eastern Cape government has insisted that it has done everything it could to prevent such incidents, and shifted the blame for the deaths to the victims’ parents.
“One of the things we are agreeing with is that we must tighten laws to ensure that there is consequences for parents because it is them who are failing us here. Not government, not the traditional leaders.
“We have done what we could, but parents have neglected their own responsibilities,” Eastern Cape Tradinational Affairs MEC, Xolile Nqatha told SABC News on Tuesday.
Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has pushed for murder charges to be laid against those responsible for the “irresponsible” deaths. He also called for an urgent provincial conference in order to find solutions to avert any further casualties in initiation schools before next year’s winter intake.
The premier said 70,000 boys had registered to undergo traditional initiation in Eastern Cape for the summer season, City Press reported.
The current season is expected to run until 12 January 2022.
The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has also called for “drastic action”.
“There are many things that are going wrong, which are leading to these fatalities and indeed this is so unwarranted and unacceptable.
“It is really unbecoming that year on year we lose so many lives in a name of a ritual and therefore something drastic must be done,” Contralesa spokesperson, Zolani Mkiva told eNCA.
Mkiva said the cause behind many of these deaths were “bogus” initiation schools.
“They really are the ones who plunge us in this crisis,” he said.
In December 2019, Parliament called on the National House of Traditional Leaders to investigate the deaths of 21 Eastern Cape initiates, many of whom also died of dehydration.
At the time, the CRL Rights Commission imposed a ban on summer initiations in the province, a decision that was not welcomed by the Contralesa.
The congress was created in 1987 to come up with solutions to prevent initiation deaths.