The initiation season in Limpopo has officially opened, after it was halted for two consecutive years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The break has led to a large number of applications for this year’s schools.
This African cultural practice marks the passage for young men to adulthood. Male initiation involves circumcision and also prepares the young men to be responsible members of society.
Contralesa in Limpopo says 723 initiation schools have been approved for this year. A member of Contralesa, Kgoši Moleke Mathabatha, says traditional leaders should guard against those who are taking young men to these schools without their consent.
“I am kindly requesting all traditional leaders who have opened initiation schools, to stop taking people to initiation schools by force. If someone doesn’t want to attend, leave them alone. People should go to the mountains voluntarily.”
Meanwhile, Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha has appointed a Provincial Initiation Co-ordinating Committee involving health experts, the traditional Affairs Department, and traditional leaders to provide input and guide the initiation schools.
The committee will help the schools with medical equipment and also send a team of doctors and nurses to intervene when help is needed and curb the spread of COVID-19.
Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba says they need to support the environmental health and infection prevention.
“We need to support the environmental health and infection prevention and control at those circumcision schools. And also what we usually do is that before the boys are taken to the school, they go through medical screening and examinations to rule out any chronic ailments that he’ll be having that might result in complications. We are also deploying, mainly our male nurses to support all the legal schools with consumables, whether it’s about wound checking and wound dressing, the hygiene of the children, if there’s no dehydration or any other risks that could be identified there. So we’re doing that throughout, and that’s what has made Limpopo in the past year, since we started this program working together with Coghsta as health, we have serious minimum casualties as a result of traditional male circumcision.”
The caretakers at the initiation school of Ga-Mmaphaswane say they will ensure that COVID-19 protocols are observed.
“Initiation school has always been part of our tradition. Our old Kings and Chiefs have been practicing this and we are continuing up to this day. In our culture, here we have a male initiation school in June, and in September we are going to have a female initiation school. Our male and female initiation schools are not running concurrently here.”
Young men who will be attending this year’s initiation schools, say they are excited to go to the mountains.
“It would be nice in the initiation school and I am happy. I want to be a man and I want to get a new name.
“I believe it’s important to go to initiation school because it’s part of our culture. My friends are also going to the mountain, so I don’t want to be left behind,” some young men say.
Meanwhile, two initiates have been admitted to hospital at Namakgale following apparent botched circumcisions. The authorities have not reported any fatalities.
In a related video: Hopes for incident-free initiation season in Eastern Cape