IFP calls for inquiry into initiation deaths

South Africa
File: A person wears a cloth with the face of the president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Mangosithu Buthelezi, at the IFP's rally in Johannesburg on 18 April 2009. Picture:

MPUMALANGA - The Inkatha Freedom Party has called for a commission of inquiry into the deaths of 27 initiates in Mpumalanga.

"This is tragic. It is imperative that the commission be set up because all stakeholders involved in this matter are defending themselves," IFP spokesman Peter Smith said on Tuesday.

"There is no one willing to take the blame," he said.

Earlier, police spokesman Colonel Leonard Hlathi said police were investigating 26 murder cases and one inquest.

No arrests had been made but police expected the results of the post mortems soon.

Smith said that while the IFP was not against traditional culture and rituals, they could not condone practices which resulted in such wide-scale abuse.

"Those who are implicated in the death of the initiates must be identified and arrested," he said.

The IFP reiterated its call that any initiation school found to be negligent should be shut down and all initiation schools be verified as legitimate and licensed to carry out the procedures safely.

The SA Human Rights Commission should also investigate the matter, he said.

Initiation ceremonies are common in South Africa, where youths partake in various activities as a rite of passage into adulthood, usually over the course of three weeks. Some 30,000 youths signed up for initiation this year.

In addition to being circumcised, the boys and young men are put through a series of survival tests, which sometimes includes exposure to South Africa's winter with very little clothing.

Their faces are painted with red clay and they are given herbal concoctions to drink. Former president Nelson Mandela described the experience in his autobiography as "a kind of spiritual preparation for the trials of manhood".

Hlathi said on Friday all the deaths occurred at government-registered initiation sites, where medical practitioners were usually present.

-Sapa

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