THE Eastern Cape’s winter initiation season officially kicks off this weekend.
Hundreds of boys will go to initiation schools, hoping that they will return as men and not end up as part of the deadly statistics of the annual winter intake.
The province recorded a shocking 14 initiation deaths last winter.
Five of the boys burned to death inside their ibhoma.
Those in charge of the traditional rite have now issued directives that only 18-year-olds who have been declared medically fit may step up for the cut.
Despite the continued loss of young lives over the past years, officials said they wanted no deaths this season.
MEC for Corporate Governance and Traditional Affairs, Fikile Xasa, provincial secretary of the House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, and deputy minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Obed Bapela officially launched the province’s winter initiation programme at the Bumbane Great place near Mthatha yesterday.
Xasa and Nonkonyana claimed the tradition had been hijacked by criminals who saw it as just a way to make a quick buck.
“Chiefs need to take primary responsibility and stop this exploitation of the tradition. Boys that go for the initiation process must come back alive, as did Nelson Mandela when he underwent the same passage to manhood,” said Xasa.
Nonkonyana said: “Parents should take responsibility for their boys and take them to doctors to make sure that they are ready and healthy enough to be circumcised.”
Acting AbaThembu King Azenathi Dalindyebo called on chiefs to check the initiates’ medical reports to see that boys going to the mountain were fit.