Traditional Affairs MEC in the Eastern Cape Xolile Nqatha has attributed the deaths of initiates in the province to commercialisation of the custom.

The death toll since the start of the summer initiation season now stands at 19.

Dehydration and negligence by elders and traditional nurses have been identified as the major causes, with the Chris Hani district having the most deaths.

Nqatha says plans are in place to improve legislation around the custom.

“We are going to get in a process to review the legislation as government so that there are consequences. What we have also observed is a closer collaboration now between some doctors and traditional surgeons to falsify birthdates for kids, some of them are under 18. Those are things that we are going to be focussing on; to review the law to ensure that there are consequences for wrong doing.”