Pretoria – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela says South Africans must play their part in ensuring that initiation schools are safe and stick to the rules of the tradition.
“Working together with government, society can bring an end to unnecessary deaths and injuries by placing the safety of young men first and by using only legal initiation schools,” said Deputy Minister Bapela on Tuesday.
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Gotga) is working with traditional leaders, the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to curb the high number of deaths and other incidents during the winter initiation season.
The department is guided by the theme, ‘We Love Our Tradition, We Value the Life of Our Youth’, in pursuit of the Zero Deaths campaign and will follow it for the rest of this season.
Deputy Minister Bapela said the department was disappointed that some initiation schools were opened before the schools holidays, some illegally so.
“In the process, we have lost three initiates – two in Mpumalanga and one in Gauteng. This is not what we had expected for this season,” the Deputy Minister said.
He said the safety of young boys is not the sole responsibility of government but is a societal responsibility. He called on parents and community members to play their part by ensuring that their loved ones return home safely by only using legal initiation schools.
He said responsible schools will not take any boy without the consent of their parents and only operate within government stipulated health guidelines.
Deputy Minister Bapela condemned the high number of abductions that have already been reported in areas that border Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Some abductions involved women, who were kidnapped to attend female initiation schools.
“We are disappointed by some traditional leaders, who, instead of working with us, they work against us by allowing the opening of illegal schools. Most of the areas that are problematic have been giving us trouble even in the previous years.
“Another challenge is where parents are not willing to open criminal cases of kidnapping of their children or when children themselves run away without the consent of their parents,” said Deputy Minister Bapela.
He said illegal and bogus initiation schools must be reported to the police. The public can use the hotline number – 0800 111 166 – to report any wrongdoings.