IN TOUCH| Suspending the initiation season correct

Of all the things you can accuse our government of having during this period of lockdown since March, chances are, common sense would not be one of them.

There were many instances during the easing of the lockdown regulations that some of the decisions they took defied logic and lacked common sense. Overall though, they did get many of the decisions spot on like the decision that has been taken to extend the suspension of the initiation season once more. That there are people who even dare criticise this move beggars belief.

In one of my posts on one of the social media platforms I said those who went through the initiation ritual in its traditional form would know that taking a boy to the bush during a very infectious disease outbreak that requires strict and heightened levels of hygiene is a pea-brained idea. Those who ask why we can’t allow the boys to go to the bush because people are allowed to go to church and taverns clearly either do not have a clue about the initiation process and the conditions that prevail in the bush or they have forgotten.

Chairperson of Contralesa in the Eastern Cape, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, said: “As far as we are concerned, Contralesa, as well as the House of Traditional Leaders, have agreed with the provincial government that this summer initiation season will be opened and we are waiting for response from the national ministry. The delay on the part of the national ministry is causing more harm.” His reasoning is that by not opening the initiation season it will allow illegal schools to open and operate under the radar and thereby pose a danger to the initiates as they will be unsupervised by the authorities.

The traditional surgeons were also quoted as saying: “We are very disappointed that our initiation custom has been halted. Our hearts are bleeding at the pronouncement by the minister. This is our only pride for the young boys to graduate from boyhood to manhood. It is a blow to us, the Xhosa people, it’s a pain.” Let us look at the infection statistics of the last few days before we even attempt to tackle the two statements against the suspension of the initiation season. The Eastern Cape is responsible for 55% of all new infections in the country and there is no sign of it slowing down. Traditionally, in a state of war (which we are basically in) initiation would be suspended until more favourable conditions are attained. As for the traditional surgeon, I should not even waste my time with him as he is purely motivated by economic concerns. What harm would a delay of one year be to an 18- year-old?

I have always maintained that taking 18-year-olds to the bush is not desirable anyway as it is way too early for me. Who would want to go through a very watered-down initiation process sans many of the traditional practices? What would then be the difference between that and going to the hospital? In whose interest is this objection being made? The government should stand firm and not allow itself to be bullied into making a callous decision. For a change there would be no family grieving over a needless death in the bush, at least not this year. If that was the only reason, it is a good enough reason all on its own.

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