There has been a spike in deaths of initiates, “particularly in the Eastern Cape”, since the summer traditional initiation season began a few weeks ago.
The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) says there have been 34 reported deaths of initiates so far, with 20 of them coming from the Eastern Cape.
“Eight have died in the Free State, three in North West, two in the Western Cape and one in the Northern Cape,” the department said in a statement on Friday.
Cogta minister Dr Zweli Mkhize met with Eastern Cape traditional leaders on Thursday at the Nqadu Great Palace in Willowvale to discuss ways of curbing further deaths of initiates during the traditional ritual of ulwaluko (traditional circumcision).
He held a “productive meeting” with representatives of the National House of Traditional Leaders and the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders on the margins of the Xhosa Carnival celebrations hosted by King Zwelonke Sigcau.
“I got a distinct feeling that all the leaders and amakhosi we met earlier today [Thursday] are very concerned and care deeply about the lives of the initiates and would want to avoid deaths by all costs,” he said.
Mkhize said amakhosi were desperate to work with government and medical doctors to curb the deaths, which number over 400 since 2012.
“There was also general consensus to revive and implement the agreement made between amakhosi and government departments which helped to reduce fatalities in 2015. This is a positive step,” said Mkhize.
He will convene another meeting in the second week of January next year “to focus on ensuring zero deaths and mutilation”.
News24 reported on Sunday that around 30 cases had been opened against traditional surgeons operating illegal circumcision schools in the Eastern Cape, following the deaths of initiates in the province.
The province’s Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa previously welcomed the arrests of 12 people in various parts of the province.