Law enforcement agencies in the province will be tested on whether or not they can enforce changes to the Customary Male Initiation Practice Act.
Premier Phumulo Masualle signed the changes last month after members of the Bhisho legislature endorsed the bill unanimously in November.
The June season for winter initiations will be the first under the revised law, which ANC Bhisho caucus leader Zolile Mrara described as a step in the right direction in helping to curb deaths and injuries to initiates.
Mrara said the new law would help to ensure the custom was not allowed to become a money-making scheme, and that unscrupulous elements received harsh jail sentences of up to 15 years.
The new law states that anyone who “conducts or opens an initiation school without written permission from the MEC for health” and the relevant traditional leadership could be liable for a fine of up to R20000 or 12 months’ jail, or both.
The law further provides that if any illegal initiation school results in injury or death to an initiate those responsible can be charged with attempted murder or murder.
This may result, on conviction, in a sentence of up to 25 years’ jail, depending on the number of initiates involved.
The new law also states that:
- No admission to an initiation school can be approved without written permission from the parents or guardian;
- The minimum age for a prospective initiate is 18 years old;
- An ingcibi (traditional surgeon) must be registered on recommendation by the relevant traditional leader;
- An ikhankatha (traditional nurse) must be registered and be known in the community; and
- Both an ingcibi and ikhankatha must be reputable people within their communities.
Under scrutiny, according to the law, is the role traditional leaders as custodians of rites and customs will now have to ensure compliance by both iingcibi and amakhankatha with the help of the police.
The Daily Dispatch reported in January that 29 initiates died during the 2016 summer initiation season and nine traditional surgeons and nurses were arrested.
This was down from 46 deaths registered in 2015.
Mrara said such tragedies could be curbed from this month onwards if communities familiarised themselves with the new law, because “it requires the involvement and participation of families, community members, ward councillors, traditional leaders, community leaders and government departments,” to realise its objectives of curbing deaths.
“The ANC caucus furthermore urges the criminal justice system to show no mercy towards those who are found to have transgressed the provisions of this Act,” he adds.
By Zine George – DispatchLIVE