Western Cape cabinet gives conditional go ahead for initiation practice
29 March 2021
The Cabinet of the Western Cape has in its meeting on the 24th March 2021 taken a decision to lift the suspension on initiation practice in the Western Cape as from 1 June 2021, subject to the following:
- The status of the COVID-19 pandemic and
- The approval of the Western Cape Risk Adjusted Plan by the National Department of Traditional Affairs
The Minister for Cultural Affairs and Sport has been granted the authority to give provincial approval for a Risk Adjusted Plan after consultation with the Minister of Health in the Province, before it is finally submitted to the national Cabinet Member responsible for Traditional Affairs. This is required in terms of section 76 of the current Alert Level 1 regulations, a prerequisite to the resumption of initiation in all provinces. The decision is in line with the announcement made by the State President on the 28 February 2021, that of lifting suspension on the initiation rite of passage pending the implementation of risk adjusted plans to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In the interests of the safety of all, initiation will immediately be suspended should the expected 3rd wave occur over the period for which initiation has been approved to resume.
The proposed start date of 1 June 2021 subject to the status of the pandemic, allows enough time for stakeholder training, mandatory health inspection as well as cultural preparation of prospective initiates, and preparation of initiation sites by Initiation Forums.
Initiation rite of passage is predominantly practiced by AmaXhosa, AmaHlubi and Basotho in the Western Cape. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) worked with all relevant sectors of society, beginning with Traditional Leaders who are the custodians of the practice. DCAS also engaged the Provincial Initiation Coordination Committee (PICC), Initiation Reference Committee (a sub-committee of the Western Cape Cultural Commission), and Initiation Forums, whilst it kept close contact with all interested formations in this fraternity. This cooperation was critical as it paved the way for the formulation of a roadmap towards a “safe rite-of-passage”, a central principle of this programme, as well as the development of a Risk Adjusted Plan for the Initiation practice under COVID-19 conditions.
The Chairperson of the Initiation Reference Committee, Mr Lungelo Nokwaza, who is also a Traditional Leader, reconfirmed the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols when initiation schools reopen. He said, it will assist in achieving the safe rite of passage and ensure zero deaths of initiates. He also emphasised that all stakeholders must do whatever it takes to prevent loss of life during this difficult time.
In terms of the roadmap, one of the key interventions towards ensuring a safe right-of-passage for initiates under COVID-19 conditions will be the training of the various role players. DCAS has already commenced with the training of cultural practitioners and members of the initiation forums from the Metro and Cape Winelands. It is currently in a process to train cultural practitioners and members of the initiation forums from the four remaining districts of the province.
DCAS applauds Traditional Leaders and the Initiation Forums for their input and willingness to adjust some of the initiation rite-of-passage procedures in order to mitigate risk where possible. “This will ensure our boys go in healthy and come out healthy”, said one of the cultural practitioners during the training. The collaborative Whole of Society Approach to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and cooperation of communities will ensure the safe rite-of-passage.
Minister Marais indicated that “we have navigated and exited a 2nd wave of COVID-19 with a clear and consistent decline in cases, hospitalisations and deaths. We move into a heightened surveillance, vigilance and urge everyone to adhere to protective behaviours to reduce new cases while in level 1, especially over the coming holiday period in order to avert an early 3rd wave which could have an impact on the commencement of initiation.”
Spokesperson for the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais
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