Death toll rises at Eastern Cape initiation schools

Johannesburg, Dec 20: Eastern Cape is well known as province of the legends as many struggle icons were born in this region, the first South African Black president, Nelson Mandela was born in the North Eastern region of this province and his successor Former SA president, Thabo Mbeki both were from the Northern region of Eastern Cape, which is known as Transkei.

However this province is deeply rooted in it’s cultural traditions as a Bantustan region constituted by a majority of Xhosa speaking communities and is also known as Xhosa land.

During the seasons of June and December as part of the cultural rituals young boys go through a rite of passage to manhood and are sent to initiation schools in the deep forests of the Eastern Cape rural communities.

The young man after going through certain rituals are considered as men and have to stay in the forests for a period of four weeks before their homecoming period is celebrated and this has marked pride in many young Xhosa boys.

However this pride and traditional ritual has turned into a death sentence for many young Xhosa boys and they as boys to the rite of passage and some of them are returning as coffins especially in the Transkei region due to improper rituals which mostly is alleged to bogus traditional leaders who perform these rituals.

The current death toll for the month of December has risen to 21 and Eastern Cape traditional leaders fear that it might rise if proper measures are not treated as a matter of urgency.

Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders have called upon the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to search and arrest those tradional surgeons who are breaking the law and leading to a rise in number of deaths in the province.

“If all of us agree to do away with the traditional initiation, it means there’s nothing left for African people to celebrate or enjoy”, House of Traditional Leaders Spokeperson, Xolile Ndevu told EyeWitness News.

Two deaths of young initiates both in the Northern West, particularly Limpompo and Western Cape have been reported. Some are are calling for the tradition to be scrapped if so many young men are loosing their lives.

The government is however looking at ways to tighten the regulations of this tradition to stop unnecessary deaths of young boys in all the provinces that practise the tradition of rite of passage.

By Ziyanda Yono