Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
23 Dec 2021
12:41 pm

Eastern Cape initiation death toll increases to 34

Thapelo Lekabe

The CRL Rights Commission said the deaths of young initiates in the Eastern Cape were becoming a provincial crisis.

Xhosa boys who have undergone an initiation ceremony sit near Qunu, Eastern Cape, on 30 June 2013. Picture: CARL DE SOUZA / AFP

The death toll of young initiates this initiation season in the Eastern Cape has increased to 34, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission) confirmed on Thursday.

The CRL Rights Commission briefed the media in Johannesburg after it held a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Eastern Cape provincial government on the alarming deaths of initiates during the summer initiation season.

ALSO READ: Eastern Cape govt blames parents as initiation school deaths rise to 31

The commission’s chairperson, Professor David Mosoma, said the majority of initiates who had died were in the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts, and were attending illegal schools.

“The commission wishes to pass its condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones in the ongoing initiation schools in the Eastern Cape,” said Mosoma.

He said that everything should be done to preserve the lives of initiates, while at the same time, communities should be allowed to enjoy their cultural and religious rights.  

Mosoma said the CRL Rights Commission was not satisfied by the excuse given by Eastern Cape officials that the change in leadership at municipalities, due to last month’s municipal elections, had a negative impact on the kind of support given to other districts in the province and local initiation forums.

“The commission is not convinced that it provides justification for the deaths of the initiates in the province and more should be done to prevent the loss of lives,” he said.

While the majority of deaths occurred in illegal initiation schools, Mosoma said some of the young initiates died due to abuse and neglect, with a majority of cases still awaiting post-mortem results.

Mosoma said the deaths of young initiates in the Eastern Cape were gradually becoming a provincial crisis.

He said the commission recommended, among other measures, that the province should clamp down on all illegal initiation schools with immediate effect.

“Those tasked with such responsibilities in terms of the customary initiation schools, Children’s Act, provincial initiation act, the provincial initiation task team, local municipalities, traditional leaders – of which these unfortunate incidences are taking place under their jurisdiction – and others, must ensure that such schools are closed down,” Mosoma said.

The CRL Rights Commission also called for the Eastern Cape government to erect rescue centres to allow initiates from illegal schools to complete their courses, and to account for all deaths in the province, as well as for law enforcement to arrest those responsible for gross negligence at the schools.

“The commission calls on the South African Police Service to fast-track the processing of already opened cases to bring those responsible to book and that successful prosecutions should be publicised to serve as a deterrent.”

READ NOW: Decision to close initiation schools meets opposition