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Western Cape records zero fatalities during summer initiation season

Zero fatalities during Western Cape summer initiation season

The Western Cape has maintained the track record of a safe initiation practice as parents proudly take their boys for initiation to prepare them for adulthood. The initiation rite of passage that is predominantly practiced by AmaXhosa, AmaHlubi and Basotho in the Western Cape went well. As the Western Cape Government places great value on the sanctity of human life, Minister Anroux Marais is proud to announce that we have achieved that mission as no fatalities were reported during the summer season formally ended on 31 January 2022.

The Western Cape Government is committed to ensure compliance in terms of the Customary Initiation Act (2 of 2021) and the COVID-19 Standard Operations Procedures (SOP) to make sure the rite of passage is preserved and practiced in a safe and conducive environment. The Department Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) plays a pivotal role in creating a safe and enabling environment for the effective rite of passage to responsible adulthood and can now confirm that of 37 initiation forums in the province, 30 participated during the summer season. Initiation forums are bodies that play a critical role in preserving the practice as well as ensuring compliance and keep the DCAS informed of developments in the traditional communities.

During the past summer season (November 2021 to January 2022), 1417 initiates completed the rite of passage, in 35 initiation sites throughout the Western Cape. During the season 10 initiates were hospitalised for one day and were discharged due to dehydration in the following municipal districts of the province: Cape Winelands(6) and Garden Route(4). The cooperation by parents with respect to compliance with the regulatory framework is of great importance to the practice, especially in terms of the full window period for medical screening. Parents are key stakeholders in this practice and their availability during the seasons is of utmost importance. In some cases, for moral support to their boys and material support as well as to act timeously when there is a need.

The implementation of the new Customary Initiation Act (2 of 2021) as from the 1 September 2021 has brought a new environment for the cultural practitioners and traditional leaders who are custodians of the practice. There are new restrictions such as age, experience and the Act guards against involvement of practitioners who have criminal records due to children abuse and related crimes.

Minister Anroux Marais said, “Initiation is complex and requires DCAS to work with other stakeholders to address the needs of the practice. It is with great pleasure to acknowledge the Traditional Leaders, Initiation Forums, the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Development (DSD), the South African Police Services (SAPS), municipalities, and cultural practitioners for their support. The DCAS has put systems in place to mitigate risks, such as developing a monitoring tool to avert challenges faced with this practice. Amongst other things, prospective initiates, cultural practitioners and family members involved had to undergo medical screening and provide proof thereof before they are allowed to enter initiation sites”.

Although the DCAS has put systems in place to face challenges, the lack of drinking water at the initiation schools, partial adherence to medical screening processes by some parents and surgeons still transpired. As required, parents are to take boys for medical screening at local clinics at least two months before initiation.

The Department remains committed to facilitate the safe return of all initiates. We congratulate all the parents and the young men for the successful completion of the rite of passage. We encourage parents to co-operate with the Department and all other stakeholders in this fraternity to ensure a safe rite of passage.

The DCAS plans to host a summit to further solicit approaches and strategies to preserve, protect and develop this practice and also to review the Summer Season in preparation for the next season. All interested and affected persons are requested to join hands in crafting the way forward towards a much safer rite of passage for the approaching winter season.

The DCAS put in place various measures in preparation for the recently completed summer season. These measures included:

The provision of training

Training was provided to cultural practitioners with special emphasis on core areas of health, hygiene, COVID-19 Infection Prevention Control measures. A total of 126 practitioners were trained in preparation for the summer season.

Customary Initiation Act, Act 2 of 2021

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has arranged meetings with all involved stakeholders to discuss the Customary Initiation Act, Act 2 of 2021. The Act was received with concern by the traditional communities. Especially, noting the issues of registration of initiation schools, age restriction and experience required for an initiation school to be registered and get recognition as legitimate school.

Provision of equipment

The Department provided personal protective equipment (PPEs) water jojo tanks, fire extinguishers, fire beaters as well as metal fire buckets to take care of wildfires.

Stakeholders’ engagement

In preparation for the summer season, the department has sensitised various stakeholders including relevant provincial departments, municipalities and initiation forums. The initiation forums attend to matters related to the initiation phases, reporting of challenges and abnormalities as well as the keeping of a database for practitioners.

Awareness campaigns

The department encouraged initiation forums to facilitate information sessions at the local high schools, community halls/ centres and libraries to sensitise the broader communities of the season that was approaching. The campaigns were also used to provide information through Radio broadcastings, the department’s website was updated, spreading of documents of the Customary Initiation Act, webinars and contact meetings with communities. Parents who intend to take their boys for initiation rite of passage during the coming winter season are advised to immediately consult with their local forums or the departments website to acquire needed information.

Community participation and involvement through initiation forums

Initiation Forums encouraged communities to play their role in ensuring a safer rite of passage to be observed responsibly. All prospective initiates were advised to be medically screened at least two months before time to ensure their physical fitness for initiation.

The DCAS has provided consent forms to be completed and signed by prospective initiates, parents / guardians, responsible traditional carers and surgeons. Communities taking their boys for initiation were encouraged to make use of the form as it facilitates common grounds of responsibilities between all the parties directly affected. The form is available from the initiation forums and the DCAS.

Source: Government of South Africa