Our children are dying to become men

Issued by Sanele Magaqa, MPL
DA member on the COGTA Portfolio Committee

Serious interventions are needed to stop the deaths of our children when they embark on their traditional rites of passage into adulthood.

A response to an oral question from the DA CoGTA MEC, Xolile Nqatha, revealed that we have lost 11 more lives this winter during the initiation season. Six deaths were recorded from the Mhlontlo Local Municipality, two from KSD Local Municipality, two from Ingquza Local Municipality and one from Buffalo City in Mdansane.

These boys died from dehydration, septicaemia and gangrene.

A further 119 initiates were admitted to hospitals due to customary male initiation-related complications. Most of these admissions were due to their wounds becoming septic and dehydration.

See response here

The conclusion of the initiation season should be a time of celebration for families, not a time of loss and sorrow.

MEC Nqatha carelessly lays the blame for these deaths at the feet of parents or persons assigned to take full responsibility for the initiates.

In doing so, he has shirked his own responsibility as MEC for Traditional Affairs and has failed to accept that the interventions his Department have put in place are falling short.

Initiation schools play a key role in our cultural heritage, but we need to work together collaboratively as government and society to ensure that our children can return and take up their new roles in our communities.

MEC Nqatha must engage with the Provincial Initiation Coordination Committee (PICC) and review what went wrong and come up with workable solutions that will ensure our children’s safety. There needs to be better training of traditional leaders, and closer working relationships with health practitioners and other stakeholders.

There also needs to be better enforcement of the Customary Initiation Act, Act 2 of 2021, which came into effect last year September.

Circumcision should never lead to death or mutilation. Our children should not be dying to become men.