‘State doesn’t care about the safety of ini­ti­ates’

CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

The head of the East­ern Cape House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers has slammed na­tional govern­ment for do­ing too lit­tle to pre­vent the deaths of ini­ti­ates.

Nkosi Ngan­gomh­laba Matanz­ima said the pro­vin­cial de­part­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs re­ceives too lit­tle fund­ing to mean­ing­fully in­ter­vene and en­sure ini­ti­ates’ safety.

“As tra­di­tional lead­ers, we blame na­tional govern­ment, be­cause even though they can see there is a prob­lem with tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion, they are not pro­vid­ing any as­sis­tance. Our province is left on its own,” he said.

Matanz­ima said govern­ment was break­ing its own laws, in­clud­ing the Tra­di­tional Lead­er­ship and Govern­ment Act of 2003, which pre­scribes that na­tional govern­ment fund the func­tions of tra­di­tional lead­ers, which in­cludes over­see­ing ini­ti­a­tion.

“They are only good at talk­ing. They are a govern­ment of talk, but no ac­tion.”

He said govern­ment should be aware that tra­di­tional lead­ers are the cus­to­di­ans of peo­ple’s tra­di­tions and cus­toms, recog­nised by law and pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“But na­tional govern­ment does not care. All they care about is to go around with TV cam­eras talk­ing about tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion, fo­cus­ing on the bad things that are hap­pen­ing. We do not ap­pre­ci­ate that. All that we want is for govern­ment dur­ing ini­ti­a­tion sea­son to come to us and say, here are the cars, here is the money to hire peo­ple who will as­sist in mon­i­tor­ing and res­cue mis­sions,” he says. He said tra­di­tional lead­ers were “not ex­cited” about deputy co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance min­is­ter Obed Bapela’s fre­quent vis­its to the East­ern Cape ev­ery ini­ti­a­tion sea­son, mak­ing “empty prom­ises”. “For us to see that he is work­ing he must bring the re­sources,” he said. But Matanz­ima also had strong words for “weak” tra­di­tional lead­ers who al­low il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools to pro­lif­er­ate in their vil­lages. He said cus­tom re­quires that when a fam­ily takes a boy to ini­ti­a­tion school, they must first re­port to the “great place”, where they in­form the chief about who the tra­di­tional sur­geon (in­g­cibi) would be, and the tra­di­tional nurse (ikhankatha) re­spon­si­ble for the ini­ti­a­tion school.

But this kind of pro­to­col was no longer fol­lowed and tra­di­tional lead­ers seemed in­dif­fer­ent, Matanz­ima said. An ini­ti­a­tion school not known at the great place by the tra­di­tional lead­ers would be il­le­gal.

“The tra­di­tion is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of a tra­di­tional leader and when there is no guid­ance that comes from the great place, from a chief, that’s when you find prob­lems,” he said.

Matanz­ima said tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion had been hi­jacked by some who wanted to make quick money out of the prac­tice. And un­like in the old days, when a tra­di­tional nurse was a wise, older man of good so­cial stand­ing, any­one now could take on the job.

“The tra­di­tional nurses are of­ten young men who are in and out of prison,” he said.

WARN­ING Govern­ment is all talk no ac­tion, says Chief Ngan­gomh­laba Matanz­ima

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