Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa president, Kgoshi Lameck Mokoena has given initiation schools the go-ahead to reopen. Ingoma, the traditional rite of passage for boys to manhood, was suspended earlier in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiation schools are to be held in December.

Contralesa disappointed that initiation schools won’t operate under alert level 1 of the lockdown:

Mpumalanga is one of the provinces where the Ingoma is still practised. Bushbuckridge and KwaMhlanga are among the places where most of the initiation schools are found.

However, according to Contralesa, the mushrooming of illegal initiation schools and also giving people an opportunity to practice their culture are some of the reasons for the decision to reopen initiation schools.

In Bushbuckridge, people have expressed divergent views about the decision to reopen initiation schools. Some believe they are not safe because initiates sometimes die, while others feel the schools are still relevant.

“It should be stopped, but because our traditional leaders want money, that’s why they influence the initiation schools,” says one resident.

“I think it’s important because most of the people still believe in that tradition and as people of Mpumalanga, we do support it,” says another resident.

Hikos Mokoena runs an initiation school in Bushbuckridge.

He believes the schools play a big role in molding boys to become responsible men.

“We are happy and appreciate the way the Contralesa has brought the chance to put back Ingoma, our culture; we are going to tell everybody about this.”

COVID-19 precautionary measures

Kgoshi Mokoena says the initiation schools will be held under strict COVID-19 precautionary measures. He adds that the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department has been informed of the decision.

“We are doing this to avoid having illegal schools. Illegal schools will self-circumcise which is very dangerous. We have taken this decision being sober in our minds, to say all those people to be given permits to run initiation schools will have to adhere to the protocol as stated by our regulations.”

According to Contralesa, only those provinces that hold their initiation schools season in December are allowed to reopen.