The AbeSotho in the Eastern Cape says the custom of initiation belongs to traditional leaders, healers and the community. The AbeSotho celebrated the homecoming of 85 initiates at St Pauls village outside Matatiele.

More than 2 000 AbeSotho boys underwent the right of passage into manhood. One death was recorded.

A total of 27 deaths were recorded for the summer initiation season throughout the Eastern Cape. An AbeSotho traditional surgeon, Tebogo Mongoato, says men need to own the custom in order to save lives

“Initiation custom is not an individual matter. It is a community matter because the community interviews through the traditional leader, where even the men who have gone through it come to see if you can conduct initiation and see if you have the skills that you can be able to conduct initiation,” explains Mongaoto.

The Premier of the Eastern Cape, Lubabalo Mabuyane, says others who practice this traditional can learn from the AbeSotho. He says the needless loss of lives during initiations must end and the work being done in Matatiele must be part of the discussion going forward.