As the winter initiation season gets underway, the deaths occurring during the rite of passage have blighted the custom for years. However, a number of programmes are in place to curb the death toll.

Last year’s winter season recorded the least number of deaths. Eleven initiates died of which six passed away when their hut caught fire.

The Eastern Cape winter initiation season was launched at Bumbane Great Place near Mthatha with all round commitment to prevent any loss of life.

“We don’t want to reduce the death toll; we want no deaths at all. We want all our boys to come back safe. We want them to come back being men who can improve society,” says Chairperson of Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane.

Since 2016 almost 300 boys died during winter and summer initiation seasons.

Commercialisation of the custom is one of the main reasons for the increase in bogus initiation schools. These schools mainly target underage boys who are desperate to be circumcised in exchange for money. Government says more than 1000 men have lost their genitals due to botched circumcisions nationally.

The Department of Health is currently piloting a penal reconstruction project.

Last year 59 criminal cases were opened to prosecute those responsible for some of the deaths. Assault, murder, dehydration and infection are the main causes of death.

Inspections at initiation schools will continue as part of the drive to eliminate the loss of life.

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