Help us save our young men’s lives

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Des van Rooyen voices@city­

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

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