Deputy Minister of Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela said the department had shut down 400 unlicensed initiation schools in the Eastern Cape alone. Bapela said these would be treated as criminal cases.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed that over a thousand cases had been reported over a period of five years, but that only 10 cases were being heard in court.
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said there were also cases with the police relating to incidents at initiation schools, but most of them were being withdrawn for various reasons.
Bapela confirmed that 158 child initiates had been rescued from an illegal school in Limpopo near Tzaneen on Friday and that 1 100 had been rescued in the Eastern Cape since the start of the season. He warned parents against taking their children to illegal initiation schools as it could result in their deaths.
The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) encouraged parents to follow up after they have enrolled their children in initiation schools.
Contralesa spokesperson Prince Tabane said although the community relied heavily on police and the traditional affairs department to ensure the schools were safe, parents also needed to be on the look out.
“You cannot take your child to the initiation school and trust that the caregivers should solely take care of your child.
“With these uncalled for incidents, parents need to frequently check the health of their children or have someone to look after them,” said Tabane.
Tabane said Contralesa had approached local municipalities to help enforce the bylaws at and ensure the community and stakeholders were able to distinguish between legal and illegal schools.
Last week at least eight boys died at initiation schools across the country – six in the Eastern Cape and another two in Mpumalanga and Limpopo.