Communities in the Eastern Cape will know in a week’s time whether or not the June initiation season will be suspended. This amid growing fears about the increase in COVID-19 cases in the province.
Provincial government and the House of Traditional leaders are of the view that even though the possibility for postponement of the initiation season could have consequences, their priority is to save lives.
Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana says after consulting relevant stakeholders, they will be able to make an announcement next week.
“It is in the best interest of our initiates and of course, in the best interest of our custom itself. Because we don’t want that custom to be regarded as the thing that has brought this coronavirus in traditional communities. It will really bring us, as traditional leaders, as well as the custom itself, into disrepute. Hence we have no hesitation that from now until the end of lockdown, there should be no initiation and we are making sure that we are visiting each and every community. We have sent a signal to all traditional leaders to monitor the situation,” says Nonkonyana.
Traditional surgeon, Okuhle Senene says they will respect government’s decision, as it is meant to save the lives of initiates.
“We are not going to fight or be at loggerheads with government for having to call a standstill, as it has called a standstill on a number of activities. We are going to respect that call because we are proudly South Africans. We want the nation to be safe at the end of the day and every citizen is a priority. We understand that there are some services here and there, that are granted chances to work so long as they stick to certain conditions. If that can be done as well, there are measures that they are able to produce as experts working with experts scientifically, so that we can be able to continue with this important traditional custom. We are prepared to adhere to that call,” says Senene.
Postponement of initiation
Earlier this week, Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) condemned the operation of initiation schools in the Eastern Cape despite the call to suspend them during the lockdown period.
Contralesa President, Kgosi Larmeck Mokoena has called on law enforcement agencies to arrest anyone who operate any initiation school while the country is fighting to contain the corona virus.
“Contralesa wants to strongly condemn the actions by some selfish individuals who went ahead and opened illegal initiation schools even after having been warned that no one must do that whilst we are busy with consultation. We want to call upon law enforcement agencies to take strong action against those because on the 24th of March, we agreed, all of us in a meeting with the deputy president, that let’s assess the situation to check whether we continue or not. I want to call upon everybody to respect the call by Contralesa and our government that let us consult widely.”
Limpopo suspends initiation season for 2020
The Limpopo Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has suspended initiation schools for the rest of this year. This is part of continued efforts to contain the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic.
The department has also warned against bogus initiation schools.
The traditional practice, which often makes headlines for the wrong reasons such as botched circumcisions, is commonly observed in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape.
In the video below, Limpopo announces the suspension of all initiation schools:
Graphic below shows amendments to COVID-19 regulations: