The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) has announced the suspension of its winter initiation school season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement on Thursday, Contralesa said the decision was taken after extensive consultation with various communities that practise the custom of rite of passage.
“By virtue of the powers vested in the Institution of Traditional Leadership as the sole Custodian of the African Traditional Customs, Rites and Rituals, we officially suspend the winter initiation season,” said Contralesa president, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena.
Mokoena said he had personally spoken to most of the kings, princes and senior traditional leaders, including provincial chairpersons of Contralesa and Houses of Traditional Leaders.
The decision to suspend the important traditional rite came after a national executive meeting of the traditional body and the signing of a declaration by Mokoena on Tuesday.
The suspension is regarded as “unprecedented”, but according to Contralesa general secretary Zolani Mkiva, it became clear that it would be a “fertile environment” for the virus to spread among the boys in the mountains.
“Of course, it was not an easy decision to suspend the initiation season, but Covid-19 has disrupted everything in the universe and this makes 2020 an unusual year in the history of humankind,” he said.
“We have since communicated our resolution to the Cabinet and the national command council so that this unprecedented decision can be included in the regulations of the state of disaster,” said Mkiva.
In the meantime, traditional leaders are playing their part in encouraging people to stay and home and to keep their distance from other people.
Contralesa warned that bogus initiation schools would not be tolerated.
“We want to emphasise that there will be serious consequences for anyone violating the regulations that speak to the suspension of the winter initiation season,” he said.