A new law regulating traditional initiations, and empowering the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to prosecute unlawful initiation schools, is on the cards to prevent the deaths and injuries associated with this practice.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen announced on Thursday, as part of his budget statement, that “efforts are underway to finalise the legal framework to fight the senseless deaths of initiates in some parts of the country”.
“To this effect, the Customary Initiation Bill will soon be presented to Parliament, and it aims to regulate the cultural initiation practice,” he said, speaking at a press briefing in Parliament before presenting his budget to the National Assembly.
“We believe this bill will go a long way to reduce the number of fatalities emanating from this cultural practice.”
One of Van Rooyen’s deputies, Obed Bapela, shed some further light on the issue. He said, in the past, Africans were visitors in the cities, so initiations only took place in rural areas.
As democracy came, so urbanisation increased. Initiations began to be performed in urban areas, away from the vigilant gaze of traditional councils. Hence a need to regulate initiation schools.
Bapela said the bill would empower the police to make arrests, and the NPA to prosecute “illegal schools found in cities where traditional leaders are not in control of people”.
The bill would also empower municipalities to make bylaws to regulate the initiation schools. Municipalities would also have to create inspectorates to monitor the schools, which would have to register with the municipalities.
Furthermore, the bill would also provide a curriculum for the schools. Bapela said many young people only went through initiation because of peer pressure.
“We must ensure there is a curriculum to ensure that, when children go there, they come out better people,” Bapela said.