Initiation rites remain suspended

Government is calling on the traditional leaders and initiation schools to hold hands with them as the traditional initiation practices remain officially suspended in a bid to mitigate exposure against COVID-19.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Deputy Minister Obed Bapela has acknowledged that many traditional communities across the country observe the sacred cultural practices of initiation.

“The traditional initiation practice is a rite of passage marking a transition into adulthood. In South Africa this important cultural journey is normally observed in June and December respectively winter and summer initiation seasons,” he said.

However, although the prohibition has been detrimental to this essential cultural practice, it is only in the interest of protecting initiates that initiation remains suspended.

He stressed that the decision to suspend initiation since alert level 5 was not taken lightly.

“In recent weeks we have seen cluster spikes of infections in numerous areas across the country signalling the dreaded possibility of a resurgence.

“In light of this, the country has to take the necessary precautions to curtail any potential of exposing initiates to conditions that might place them in vulnerable positions with respect to contracting the Coronavirus.”

He urged everyone to remain vigilant and do more to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and to protect initiates from exposure to this unrelenting “brutal” virus.

“Our resolve to continue with the suspension will go a long way to set South Africa on course to defeat COVID-19 which still a major cause of deaths across the country as numbers have been rising at an alarming rate. To this end, it is deemed necessary to temporarily maintain the suspension of the initiation practices.”

Bapela said government has consulted widely across all sectors and is pleading with traditional leaders and communities to observe the suspension of initiation.

He also encouraged them to educate communities about the dangers of the Coronavirus, especially as it relates to this important cultural practice.

“To this end, government and all stakeholders will not tolerate bogus initiation schools and anyone who is found to be disobeying the order of initiation suspension in the wake of COVID-19.”

He has warned that those caught running illegal initiation schools will face the full might of the law in line with Disaster Management Act regulations.

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