The Customary Initiation Bill

Young Zulu initiates (Amakrwala) from the greater Kokstad area
Young Zulu initiates (Amakrwala) from the greater Kokstad area

First gazetted in March this year, the National Assembly has now passed the Customary Initiation Bill, which aims to regulate initiation schools, in order to reduce the number of initiate deaths. Over the past six years more than 400 initiates have died, with 3600 young men being admitted to hospital, resulting in 132 amputations.

While leaders of Contralesa (Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa) are up in arms over the bill, Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela, insists that it’s not government’s intention to interfere in customary practices, but rather to clamp down on the illegal and bogus schools:

This bill seeks to deal harshly with the hijacking of our culture and commercialisation of our good cultural practice. It is about punishing wrongdoing as criminal elements who abduct underage boys without the knowledge of their families for financial gain and establish illegal schools all over”, Deputy Minister Obed Bapela

The bill will have to be agreed to by the National Council of Provinces before it can be signed into law. If the law is passed, municipalities will be required to inspect those properties being used for initiation practices.

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