A planned welcome home celebration for 25 initiates at Kubusi village in Qumbu, in the Eastern Cape, ended up with the police being deployed as COVID-19 protocols were not adhered to.

Under Alert Level 3, families are prohibited from hosting traditional homecoming festivities, known as imigidi.  The people from the village are, however, not taking kindly to that and are asking if the COVID-19 regulations should supersede customary practices. In defiance, the villagers gathered without wearing masks and observing social distancing. There were also no sanitisers on sight.

A cow was slaughtered and alcohol served.

The locals also interfered with journalists who were reporting on the event, questioning who had invited them.

“Filming of the initiates will not take place here, and that is against our will. So that will not happen. We want all these journalists to pack their things and leave,” the villagers said.

The SABC News crew proceeded with its plans and did live reports from the village. Soon afterward, the police arrived and put a halt to the ceremony.

A villager, Patrick Mdolomba, says they will not take instructions from the police.

“Police say they will not leave if these journalists are still here, they say our initiates will not come back home if the reporters do not leave; where do they get that? As the Tshabalalas we do not take instructions from anyone; we will do things according to our will,” he said.

The local traditional leader, Nolitha Ludidi, urged the police to allow parents to take their sons back home.

“We are asking the police to allow parents to just take their children back home. We understand that the regulations do not allow people to come together like this, but we must also take into cognisance that children want to be welcomed by their parents back home,” said Ludidi.

Homecoming ceremony of 25 initiates in Qumbu:

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Xolile Nqatha, was meant to attend the ceremony but cancelled the plans.

He said: “I discovered that they did not comply with the regulations as a result I decided not to go there and we have since requested SAPS to disperse the gathering and investigate if anything can be done for those who are responsible for breaking the regulations.”

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralese) had also distanced itself from the event. Contralesa provincial chairperson, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, says they were not invited and learnt through the media that COVID-19 regulations were violated.

The curtailed initiation season has not been incident-free. Eleven initiates have died already.

A total of 239 initiates also tested positive for the coronavirus and are in isolation. A further 22 initiates are in hospital due to botched circumcisions and dehydration.