Initiation bill under scrutiny

MIXED views were heard on how to conduct initiation in the country at a public hearing about the Customary Initiation Bill, held in Kokstad Town Hall on Wednesday.

People were concerned about the death of young boys during initiation schools as well as the behaviour of the boys upon their return.

According to the bill, parents or legal or customary guardians must decide whether a boy should attend an initiation school or not and also decide whether they wish to do it medically or traditionally. Parents also need to disclose to the relevant principal and care-givers whether the prospective initiate is on medication and disclose any disability that may limit him to initiation activities.

Traditional surgeons need to be registered and must at all times be in a possession of the letter confirming their registration. The SAPS must, [for the purpose of section 15(6)(b)] investigate whether initiates who were attending the non-registered initiation school could be regarded as abducted or kidnapped and must submit dockets to National Prosecuting Authority for a decision whether anyone should be prosecuted or not.

An initiation school must be registered at least three months prior to the commencement of the initiation season and such registration is valid only for a specific season, indicated on the registration certificate. Initiation seasons must be held over relevant provincial holidays and must not interfere with official school terms. The bill also prohibits boys who are under 16 years old to attend initiation schools.

Principals and care-givers must ensure discipline among initiates and make sure that initiates have access to healthcare facilities whenever the need may arise.

In the event of the death of an initiate, the principal of the initiation school must immediately inform parents, SAPS, the relevant traditional surgeon and medical practitioners.

Speaking at the event, Inkosi Lepheana from Matatiele said they never experienced deaths of initiates because there was a good partnership between traditional leaders and initiation working committees.

In Kokstad, initiation is controlled by initiation school Indlondlo, led by the chairperson Benny Khobo. He said 250 boys were initiated under Indlondlo in December last year and there were no casualties.

“We make sure that boys have medical certificates and consent forms from guardians before attending the school. We keep boys in the bush for a period of six weeks, teaching them about the responsibilities of men,” he said.

People complained about the high use of drugs by boys who come from initiation schools, but Khobo said drugs are not taught in initiation schools.