Western Cape initiation schools shut down for violating the law

The Western Cape department of cultural affairs and sport has taken legal action against four customary initiation schools.

The  schools – situated in Nyanga, Gugulethu, Philippi, and Khayelitsha – are facing criminal charges under the Customary Initiation Act of 2022 for failing to comply with mandatory registration processes.

According to the department, the act mandates that all initiation schools must register with a relevant provincial department, outlining the procedures for such registrations.

Despite repeated notifications and warnings from officials, the four schools in question failed to adhere to the stipulated regulations.

Charges filed

Consequently, charges were officially filed at Philippi East and Lingelethu West police stations.

“The four schools concerned did not follow the process,” the department said.

“As the act requires, officials from the Western Cape department of cultural affairs and sport visited each of the sites and served them with notices that they had two calendar days to close.

“Unfortunately, despite receiving these notices, the four schools did not do so. The inaction by the four schools triggered the criminal charges, in terms of the Customary Initiation Act.

“The department of cultural affairs and sport, in collaboration with its partners in the Western Cape department of health and wellness and several municipalities, held two separate training and information sessions in October and early November 2023 for cultural practitioners involved with customary initiation schools.

“These sessions were not attended by the four schools concerned.”

Upholding cultural values

Expressing concern for the wellbeing of young men undergoing this traditional rite of passage, Western Cape MEC for cultural affairs and sport, Anroux Marais, emphasised the department’s commitment to ensure the safe return of initiates while upholding cultural values.

“The role of the department of cultural affairs and sport, together with its partners, is to ensure that our young men return from this important rite of passage alive and healthy while all the important and relevant cultural values are upheld and honored.”

Acknowledging the diligence of officials involved in the closure of these schools, Marais commended their efforts, emphasising the Western Cape’s dedication to respecting the law.

The MEC said the province is resolute in its commitment to prevent any harm to young men during the initiation season.

“We care about our boys and young men. We will continue to enforce the law very firmly in the interests of our initiates,” said Marais.

“In our quest to have no deaths of Western Cape young men this initiation season, no illegal customary initiation schools will be allowed to operate.”

More than 700 initiates have died in the past 10 years in Eastern Cape alone, according to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities.

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