‘Give us cars to check on schools’

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

Tra­di­tional lead­ers in the Eastern Cape have asked for more re­sources to beef up their fight to pre­vent more fa­tal­i­ties as the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion death toll reached 11 this week. Nkosi Ngan­gomh­laba Matanz­ima, chair­per­son of the Eastern Cape House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, said gov­ern­ment needed to buy ve­hi­cles for all 243 tra­di­tional lead­ers in the prov­ince to en­able them to mon­i­tor ini­ti­a­tion pro­cesses.

“If you go to Lim­popo, they have 185 tra­di­tional lead­ers and all are pro­vided with ve­hi­cles by the gov­ern­ment. In the North West, North­ern Cape and Mpumalanga, it is the same thing,” he said.

“We need cars, fast, for all the chiefs, so that they can per­form their du­ties as tra­di­tional lead­ers.

“In this prov­ince, there is the prob­lem of abakhwetha [ini­ti­ates] who are dy­ing in am­ab­homa [ini­ti­a­tion schools] be­cause tra­di­tional lead­ers can­not reach the places where these schools are lo­cated. We have a dif­fi­culty with ini­ti­a­tion. Kids are dy­ing.

“So, dur­ing the sea­son, we would want to see tra­di­tional lead­ers mov­ing about and check­ing on these mat­ters and vis­it­ing ini­ti­a­tion schools. But with­out trans­port, it be­comes dif­fi­cult.”

When the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion sea­son started three weeks ago, the de­part­ment of health an­nounced that it would as­sist by pro­vid­ing 35 bakkies for mon­i­tor­ing pur­poses at ini­ti­a­tion schools for 45 days.

Nkosi Gcobani Tyali, the chair­per­son of the OR Tambo district’s tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion fo­rum, said mon­i­tors could not be ex­pected to ex­cel at their jobs with limited re­sources. He cited the ex­am­ple of a bakkie which was pro­vided by Nyan­deni Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity for con­duct­ing vis­its to ini­ti­a­tion schools. It had to be re­turned only three weeks into the win­ter sea­son, de­spite the fact that this was the most crit­i­cal ini­ti­a­tion time, when mon­i­tors ex­pe­ri­enced the most chal­lenges.

“Trans­port and com­mu­ni­ca­tion are the most fun­da­men­tal tools we need to deal with the chal­lenges of ini­ti­a­tion,” said Tyali.

“It is not enough for tra­di­tional lead­ers to be given cars tem­po­rar­ily only dur­ing the sea­son.”

He said the aware­ness cam­paign em­barked upon by the fo­rum, warn­ing of the dan­gers of il­le­gal ini­ti­a­tion schools, should not be sea­sonal but should be con­ducted year-round.

“Peo­ple say chiefs are re­dun­dant and use­less. They for­get that we are not ac­corded the same sup­port and re­sources as other of­fice bear­ers,” he said.

Pro­vin­cial health spokesper­son Sizwe Ku­pelo said joint ef­forts be­tween tra­di­tional lead­ers and gov­ern­ment had con­trib­uted to the re­duc­tion of deaths at ini­ti­a­tion schools, which was a pos­i­tive out­come.

He said the 11 ini­ti­ates who had died, in­clud­ing the six who were killed by fire at an ini­ti­a­tion school in Qumbu two weeks ago, was tragic. This meant that, in ef­fect, five ini­ti­ates had per­ished from com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to the ini­ti­a­tion or to a botched cir­cum­ci­sion.

Ku­pelo said it was also the first time that less than 10 ini­ti­ates had died in the third week of the win­ter ini­ti­a­tion sea­son, par­tic­u­larly in the OR Tambo re­gion, a known hot spot for ini­ti­a­tion deaths.

Since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, at least two ini­ti­ates have died in the OR Tambo district.

Ku­pelo said more ef­fort was needed to en­sure zero deaths, but the low num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties was pos­i­tive.

“One death is one death too many. But this is the be­gin­ning of good things,” Ku­pelo said.

Mamkeli Ngam, pro­vin­cial spokesper­son for the de­part­ment of co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs, could not be reached for com­ment.

PHOTO: LUBABALO NGCUKANA

IT’S ABOUT REACH Chief Ngan­gomh­laba Matanz­ima, chair­per­son Eastern Cape House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, is ap­peal­ing to gov­ern­ment for ve­hi­cles to mon­i­tor ini­ti­a­tion pro­cesses Are you con­cerned about a fam­ily mem­ber who is about to un­dergo tra­di­tional ini­ti­a­tion in the Eastern Cape? Would you like to check if the tra­di­tional sur­geon they have cho­sen is skilled and reg­is­tered with the prov­ince's de­part­ment of health?

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