THE BLOG
14/06/2018 06:06 SAST | Updated 14/06/2018 06:06 SAST

Initiation Schools: One Death Is A Death Too Many

'Some of these young men have not been sent to undergo a rite of passage into manhood, but to their untimely deaths.'

Siegfried Modola/ Reuters

Let's examine ulwaluko after the "Inxeba" protests.

It's the month of June, and initiation season is fast approaching. It's been five months since the previous season in December, when there were 23 reported tortures and assaults and 17 deaths. Some cases included a woman killed by initiates, initiates renting out their hut, and the amputation of the hand of a Centane initiate following torture allegations.

Authorities have labelled the 2017 summer initiation season the "worst in recent years", as reported by the Daily Dispatch, with a deafening silence from those in leadership — both political and traditional — on programmes of action to curb further deaths and injuries. This while protests, cinema shutdowns and boycotts over the screening of the movie "Inxeba" were all over social media.

At this point, the problem threatening the ritual of ulwaluko is not the revealing of secret rituals — but the deaths, injuries, losses and pain that the ritual inflicts on some young men and their families. These young men have not been sent to undergo a rite of passage into manhood, but to their untimely deaths.

Criminal elements and opportunists continue to infiltrate this ancient ritual.

Such protests would be beneficial — particularly in areas known for such incidents. Parents and the community have protested against the opening of initiation schools until programmes of action have been adopted by the police, government and traditional leadership ensuring the safety of their children. Criminal elements and opportunists continue to infiltrate this ancient ritual.

It can't be business as usual when families have to stop their children from undergoing the ritual in protest, and men should be the face of such a protest. Another way to limit such incidents is for families to be highly involved — and maybe even request leave from work if possible, especially for the first week. Or alternatively, request that an uncle or family friend be with the initiates.

Families can't place their faith in amakhankatha "caregivers" anymore, especially in areas that are known for deaths and injuries. One death or injury is a death or injury too many.