Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGta) Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has appealed for calm as traditional leaders battle it out with government over the closing of initiation schools.

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) this week condemned government’s decision to scrap initiation for the summer holidays in the Eastern Cape.

Contralesa’s chairperson in the province, Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, accused the government of undermining traditional leaders.

Dlamini Zuma, however, says there is no need for conflict. “I don’t think there should be a fight on this matter at all between government or traditional leaders. There must be unity of purpose to make sure we work together so that the young people who going through initiation to manhood do that safely. This matter is being handled by traditional leaders, by health, by CoGta.”

House of Traditional Leaders pleads with the government to reopen initiation schools:

Illegal initiation schools

Chief Nonkonyana believes government’s delay in opening the summer initiation season has led to the mushrooming of illegal initiation schools in the province.

“As far as we are concerned, the Contralesa, as well as the House of Traditional Leaders, we have agreed with our provincial government that this summer initiation season will be opened and we are waiting for response from our national ministry to respond, accordingly. The delay on the part of the national ministry is causing more harm”

Although disappointed, traditional surgeons say they will heed government’s decision. Traditional surgeon, Qaqambile Siyongwana, believes the suspension of the custom this season will be a huge loss to many parents, who had already made preparations to send their boys to initiation schools. 
 
“We are very disappointed that our initiation custom has been halted. Our hearts are bleeding of the pronouncement by the minister. This is our only pride for the young boys to graduate from boyhood to manhood. It is a blow to us as the Xhosa people, it’s a pain.” 
 
Nonkonyana also says there is no scientific proof that the second wave of COVID-19 will be caused by initiation schools. He says they will hold government accountable if the boys die at illegal initiation schools. 
 
“We will blame our national government for any harm of death of initiates, because of this. Hence, we are calling upon the national government to pronounce because as far as we are concerned, the issue is irreversible and what needed to happen is that there must be regulations to comply with COVID-19 regulations. Initiation is not the cause of the second wave.” 
 
Already, there are more than 20 illegal initiation schools across the Eastern Cape province. Contralesa has threatened to contact civic organisation, Sancoand other stakeholders to organise a march to force government to open the summer initiation season.