A new bill aimed at regulating customary male initiation is close to reaching parliament for processing, Deputy Traditional Affairs Minister Oped Bapela said on Thursday.
Briefing journalists on the department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs budget, Bapela said the bill would go a long to reducing the number of deaths at initiation camps around the country.
“The main fundamental intent of the law is one to empower the police and the National Prosecuting Authority to be able to arrest and prosecute those who are running illegal schools,” said Bapela.
“These [illegal initiation schools] in the main are found in urban centres … where traditional leaders are not [in] charge and therefore you find people just do as they want.”
Scores of boys die every year due to dehydration, gangrene and other complications, which government attributes to “fly-by-night” operators who use the cultural practice to make a quick buck.
The Customary Initiation Bill would make provision for municipalities to help regulate the operations of initiation schools. Bapela said municipalities would be required to create a list of those opening up initiation schools, who would have to present their credentials and would have to know the practice itself.
“The municipalities can then develop bylaws that can then begin to manage, control and make sure that whoever wants to practice, the spaces are identified … and also the bylaws are enacted in such a way that the conditions are hygienic, there’s water access and the routes access to those particular places are in order unlike where the people just go into forested areas, where factories and mines dump …” said Bapela.
This month, at least four initiates in Mpumalanga died. One of the boys was just 14-years-old despite those younger than 16 not being allowed to attend initiation schools in terms of the Mpumalanga Ingoma Act.
Education and awareness is also featured in the bill as many young people attend initiation schools as a result of peer pressure, said Bapela.
“They don’t know the cultural phenomena and when you engage them why you do this they say no my friends have done it, and its not linked to any cultural belief.”
– African News Agency (ANA)