Media Statements

Deputy Minister Bapela Hails the 2016 Winter Initiation Season End

The Ministry for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs lauds the end of the 2016 winter initiation season which saw acommendable improvements.

The weekend of 16 & 17 July 2016 brought to an end, another winter initiation season. Like other years before, the year 2016 saw young men across the country embarking on a this sacred path which has been a central element of traditional African cultures since time immemorial and a necessary part of many African communities. Parents and communities across the country welcomed back home young men who embarked on this sacred path towards adulthood which is critical to young men developing into responsible, community-oriented adults.

In 2016, the Department of Traditional Affairs worked tirelessly with all stakeholders in an effort to bring to an end the death of initiates. In pursuit of the “Zero Deaths” campaign during the initiation seasons, parents were urged not to outsource their responsibility of ensuring the safety of their children, even though the initiation process.

Through extensive communication, using all platforms, parents were engaged and were urged to include family members, relatives or any member of the community should the need arise because in the African culture and world view, it takes a village to raise a child. Through this period, communities were urged that initiation process, as is part of our culture, it is a societal problem. 

Government called on families, parents and legal guardians to have the interest of their children at heart by ensuring that they are involved in the process of choosing appropriate initiation schools where pre-screening, proper registration is done and the surgeons are qualified and well known by parents.

“This year, we are glad that parents worked in partnership with traditional leaders, government and all stakeholders to ensure a conducive process for a successful initiation season to take place, especially the recognition that children too have rights in line with our constitution”, said Minister van Rooyen.

Even though in 2016, government pull all the stops to work with communities and other stakeholders, we are saddened that there are some who did not listen to our messages and advise on initiation processes.

We still experienced a number of challenges:

  1. Psychological readiness
  2. Parents not using legal initiation schools
  3. Mushrooming of illegal initiation schools
  4. Young men not going through the pre-screening process
  5. Young undergoing initiation not drinking water, pre/during and post initiation process.

From the departmental perspective, had dedicated a team that worked on issues of initiation and this team will continue into the summer initiation season. This team worked with the national task team in monitoring initiation activities in different areas across the country to help curb the high number of deaths that we had last year as follows:


  • Winter Season:                  44 deaths


  • Summer season:               57 deaths

This rise of senseless deaths amongst initiates have been a worrying trend, hence all the interventions that government put in place working with all stakeholders. As government we are saddened that even with all the measures we employed to ensure a safe initiation season, the country recorded the death of 27 initiates,

  • Eastern Cape Province – 18
  • Limpopo – 2
  • Mpumalanga – 2
  • North West – 3
  • Gauteng – 2

The Ministry for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is saddened by the untimely of this young men, the future of our country and sends sincere condolences to the families and friends of the deceased. The deputy Minister indicated that it is unacceptable that initiates should still die even when we have put mechanisms in place to address this challenge.

Government has however noted that the year 2016, has seen a significant decline of the death of initiates. This is commendable as it speaks to the effectiveness of the interventions that we have put in place to address these challenge. Even though there is a significant reduction of death cases as compared to last year, as a department we have adopted a zero tolerance approach and any death is one too many. We are urging communities, especially parents, care givers or legal guardians to play their part and support our zero deaths approach. We should all declare that enough is enough and ensure zero death rate in future.

Looking at the causes of death for this young men, it is the same problems that we warned communities about, like dehydration, botched circumcision procedure and many other challenges that were major causes last year.

“However, the Deputy Minister commends the initiation coordinating forums, which are operating on the ground for having rescued many initiates from illegal schools and we also welcome the arrest of many of this criminals who’s wish is to desecrate this noble traditional practice of our people”, said Deputy Minister Bapela.

As part of the interventions, the Deputy Minister visited 4 provinces that experienced challenges of illegal initiation schools, abductions and some even had high deaths of initiates. These are Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. This random visits also served as a as part of the department’s crack down of illegal initiations schools during this season. During this countrywide visits, the Deputy Minister also met with the parents of the children who have been kidnapped and some who’s children sadly passed away and also visited those were rescued at the rescue centres and hospitals.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the abductions, kidnappings and the commercialization of initiation schools”, said Deputy Minister Bapela. It is under such circumstances that many deaths are experienced.

Deputy Minister said government will deal harshly with the cruel and heartless thugs who kidnap and assault young initiates in the name of culture and claiming to make the men. This crackdown will include parents that collude with perpetrators to operate illegal schools. It is within context the DM highlighted that the law will be strict on age and the traditional leaders should play their role. He further highlighted that government hopes that all municipalities, be it a metro, district or local, should have by-laws before the start of the 2017 winter initiation.

The Deputy Minister Bapela announced that the department will have a summit in November 2016, where traditional leaders from all provinces will be engaged in a dialogue on all key issues within their area, including initiation. Amongst issues to be considered would be the harmonization of the working relationship between traditional leaders and elected leaders.


The Deputy Minister expressed his appreciation to officials throughout the country for the hard and hands on saving the young precious lives of initiates. The Deputy Minister said that the support from various stakeholders including traditional initiation Forums, traditional leaders, Departments of Health and Social Development, SAPS, municipalities, Community Development Foundation of South Africa and NPA made a difference in 2016.

Finally, the Minister said the role of parents will go a long way in ensuring that this traditional and cultural practice is continues for years to come – “We Love Our Tradition, We Value Life of Our Youth”. Together we can ensure the safety our children – let’s adopt “Zero Tolerance to initiation deaths”.



Legadima Leso


Cell: 083 378 9495