At last – a big success for Eastern Cape
It is a stunning success in a province that is not exactly known for its stunning successes. The death toll for the winter initiation season in Eastern Cape dropped by a whopping 58%.
So, how did the provincial government do it? By applying the basics: passing an effective law, making sure that law was enforced, and by working closely with traditional leaders and parents to ensure that the death toll dropped to a historic low. Fifteen fewer initiates died this winter compared with those of last year.
The Customary Male Initiation Practice Act, which was passed last December, was enforced for the first time this past initiation season.
Cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa said the new act made all the difference, and “sent a big message” to local traditional leaders who are supposed to oversee the custom, as well as to traditional surgeons and nurses operating illegally.
He also said the act guided the formation of initiation monitoring forums across the province – staffed by chiefs, police and nurses from the health department from provincial, district and local levels – and that municipalities actively took part in the programme as did the National Prosecuting Authority.
Besides that, the department also communicated messages of safe initiation to local authorities and residents well ahead of time, and partnerships with the media – including City Press and Umhlobo Wenene FM – “worked wonders in terms of making people aware”, Xasa said.
Nkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, head of the province’s House of Traditional Leaders, said that, previously, “there was no proper act guiding initiation, especially when it comes to penalties on those found to be practising illegal initiation schools”.
Still, 11 initiates died this season, which is 11 too many, and there is a lot still to do to make ritual initiation safer. But this is an excellent start and we look forward to even fewer deaths when the summer initiation season takes place in December.