Help us save our young men’s lives
The summer initiation season is upon us. Communities throughout the country are preparing their children for this sacred path of our people, in line with our different cultures. The involvement of communities in this process brings to life our core message and theme as government: “Together moving South Africa forward.” It also speaks to the age-old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Government is sounding a clarion call to all in our country to stand up and protect our young men. Together we can move South Africa forward by ensuring that we join hands as communities to raise disciplined young men who may one day be leaders of our country in various sectors. As a society, we owe it to our children to take a stand and say: enough is enough – we cannot stand idle while the future of one of our greatest treasures – young men – is destroyed. Government continues to invest heavily in the future of our children, because a country that does not have vibrant young people who are trained adequately to lead for posterity is definitely doomed.
South Africans, let us invest in the future of our children. We must not allow them to be abused by unscrupulous syndicates that continue to murder and harm them. We must unite the way we did fighting apartheid and other social ills and say: Never again will our young men lose their precious lives in such a senseless manner. If we fail to unite and come together as communities against the commercialisation of this important cultural practice, we won’t be able to win the fight against the heartless criminals who only want to enrich themselves at the expense of our children.
We applaud people and organisations that are doing all in their power to lend a hand to ensure a safer initiation period. We are encouraged by efforts like those of City Press. In partnership with Code for Africa and Open Data Durban, City Press has developed an app that enables parents and initiates to check whether the traditional surgeons they have chosen are registered with the provincial department of health, and to find someone who is. It also enables users to report unregistered surgeons and bogus initiation schools, as well as initiates who are in trouble. This is commendable and I believe it will go a long way towards saving the lives of our children.
Let us send the message, loud and clear, that those who are thinking of cashing in on the lives of our children through unlawful initiation schools will not get away with it. The ministry for cooperative governance and traditional affairs is engaging all stakeholders across the country to help in ensuring that this important part of our culture is well preserved.
Some South Africans are enraged and have begun to question this traditional practice and its relevance in a modern society. Let me reiterate: There is nothing wrong with this practice and it is wrong for anyone to call for it to be stopped. Our Constitution, in its preamble, recognises our diversity and guarantees the rights of all people to practise their cultures without fear. This important practice is even more relevant today than it was many years ago, as we are tasked with ensuring that our children are raised under guidance and are taught to become better people in the future.
We call on all South Africans, whether directly or indirectly involved in this traditional practice, to be accountable – especially traditional leaders, who are the custodians of this important and sacred traditional rite.
Gone are the days when unscrupulous people would just decide out of greed to have an initiation school. Government has developed a number of pieces of legislation aimed at eliminating deaths and injuries at initiation schools.
Furthermore, the department of traditional affairs has developed the Bill on the Customary Practice of Initiation in SA. Now, among many other things, a traditional surgeon has to be properly skilled and experienced, and ensure that the initiation school is duly registered and accredited. They also need to keep proper records of house initiates and work closely with eligible medical professionals, who are readily available to visit schools.
As government, we are tired of botched circumcisions that have claimed many innocent lives across the country, especially in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. As reported in City Press on November 20, some of the young men have lost their manhood and others have been scarred for life.
The country recorded 37 deaths of initiates during the 2016 winter season. This is unacceptable, one death is one too many – it’s time to clamp down on bogus initiation schools that have been largely responsible for the atrocities we have experienced so far.
An illegal initiation school is one that is not registered, where the traditional surgeon is not qualified and where the school is not cooperating with health authorities.
All these initiation schools are operating within communities and they are known. We therefore request people to “blow the vuvuzela” and notify the authorities about illegal schools operating in their areas.
Any initiation school that abducts children should be deemed as illegal and the police should be notified immediately. In terms of the laws of our country, abduction is not allowed and such offences are punishable. We encourage all communities to report these as criminal acts.
A legal school cannot abduct. It will always work with parents who would have ensured that the young men underwent medical checks and that they are well hydrated.
We love our tradition, we value the lives of our young people. Together we can ensure the safety our children. Let’s adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to initiation deaths. Van Rooyen is the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs