The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) wants Parliament to immediately pass the draft Policy on Customary Practice of Initiation which would allow for the prosecution of people running illegal initiation schools.
Initiation season came to an end last weekend with a death toll of 33 initiates across the country and hospitalisation of more than 200.
The figure was down from last season where 46 deaths were reported by the National House of Traditional Leaders.
A group of male initiates. Picture credit: AFP.
Circumcision has become a large source of income in poverty-stricken communities where unemployment is high.
Families are willing to pay large sums to send their boys off to become men, but this willingness to pay is too often exploited and leads, as this season has shown, to disturbingly high rates of injury and death.
CapeTalk and 702 presenter Redi Tlhabi spoke with Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of CoGTA about the proposed regulation of the initiation schools.
It is mainly the death of our children, the future of our country, that has prompted the urgency. We've reduced the numbers, but one death is too many. We have to reach the point of eliminating them completely.— Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of CoGTA
Bapela says that there has been a growing suggestion for initiates to undergo medical circumcision and attend cultural schools thereafter. However, this has been met with a great deal of resistance by traditional leaders who may be perpetuating the stigma associated with the hospital procedure.
3 reasons for high number of deaths initiation schools:
1. Illegal schools.
Fly-by-night institutions often enroll underage initiates and do not have the necessary knowledge regarding matters such as dehydration and infection.
2. Inexperienced surgeons.
Inexperienced surgical practitioners tend to botch the circumcisions.
3. Lack of pre-screening.
The practice of medical pre-screening allows for initiates to be checked for pre-existing illnesses or chronic medications that may cause complications at the schools.
See the full draft policy on the Customary Practice of Initiation in South Africa, which has been open for public comment.
@RediTlhabi why does it sound like Govt is afraid of traditional leaders or is it about votes not peoples lives— Simangele Mapiyeye (@sweetsma) July 27, 2015
@RediTlhabi the issue is how the uncircumcised youth is treated, dogs are treated better. The initiation curriculum needs to be looked at.— Mzuyanda Mfuku (@MzuyandaTyatya) July 27, 2015
@RediTlhabi the problem isn't the cultural practice but rather the illegal practice thereof. Let's find ways of making it safer— Sanele (@Sanele_so) July 27, 2015
Listen to the full conversation from The Redi Thlabi Show: