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Eastern Cape Initiation Schools Suspended Following 22 Deaths


The CRL Rights Commission has suspended initiation schools and practices for a year, it said on Thursday. 

The suspension will affect four areas in the Eastern Cape where 22 initiates have died, “until all compliance matters are comprehensively addressed”, the organisation said at a media briefing at its Johannesburg offices. 

The decision was taken after the commission – established to promote the cultural, religious and linguistic rights of communities – met to “deliberate” the deaths. 

Cops called upon to crack down on initiation school deaths

The organisation called on key players to do “everything in their power” to “promote the sacrosanctity, preservation and protection of life”, it said, adding that law enforcement agencies should bring to book those who were responsible for the deaths.

“The commission has observed with dismay that in given instances the cultural practice of initiation robs families and communities of young people who either die or suffer genital amputation. The deaths of around 22 initiates are clearly a violation of the sanctity of human life.

“The true and authentic traditional practice of initiation must be measured and judged by its ability to care and preserve the lives of the young initiates. The deaths and amputations suffered by these young men can never be tolerated, especially considering the fact that during the same period in 2018 about 17 boys had lost their lives.”

The commission said some of the major concerns “repeatedly highlighted” to the initiation stakeholders, included the continued kidnapping and abduction of children to illegal initiation schools, ongoing criminal activities disguised as initiation activities, unwillingness by some police stations to enforce the laws -especially when cases of missing children have been reported, and the “daring attitudes” by some operators of illegal initiation schools who behave as though they are above the law.

Issues that had to be resolved “forthwith”, said the commission, included: 

  • The  rescue and removal of initiates who were still at the centres where deaths occurred;
  • Engaging various structures to address the abuse and commercialisation of the practice;
  • Appealing to fathers, guardians and uncles to be available and accompany their boys during the initiation season;
  • Addressing criminality at some of the initiation schools; and
  • The identification, restructuring and capacitation of dysfunctional local initiation committees.
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