“THIS is disappointing as well as heartbreaking.”
This was what Eastern Cape traditional affairs department spokesman Mamkeli Ngam said while discussing the
increasing death toll of this initiation season.

Ngam said the blame lay with parents and traditional leaders for failing to report cases where boys as young as 10
were being circumcised, and the presence of illegal amabhoma in their villages.
However, he vowed that the department would continue to work hard to prevent the death toll from going higher
than last year.
So far 15 boys have died during the winter initiation season.
Ngam said the OR Tambo region had 100 deaths, followed by Alfred Nzo with three, Buffalo City Metro with one
and Chris Hani with one. The latest death is that of Apelele Ntontwana (13), from the OR Tambo region, who died
on Sunday.
Another mentally ill initiate was rescued from the same illegal school at Mevana Village in Port St Johns and is in
“As the department, we did everything in our power to ensure there would be no deaths. We ran awareness
campaigns and strengthened relations with traditional leaders,” Ngam said.
“Traditional leaders are letting us down by allowing illegal schools. As the department, we cannot be all over the
“At some amabhoma we have found boys as young as 10. They had imichazo on their bodies, which shows they
were prepared by their parents.” He said an ingcibi and ikhankatha were bust in Mbhashe last week for illegal
“That is the kind of intervention we want to see. In Mgwenyane, where more than 60 illegal initiates were found, no
arrests were made and no cases were opened by parents.
“We appeal to parents and traditional leaders to work with us in arresting those who go against the Male Initiation
He said traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa would visit the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo districts on Sunday and
Monday to look for illegal schools. OR Tambo initiation forum chairman Chief Daliziswe Dudumayo said traditional
leaders are not to be blamed for initiate deaths.
“The problem here is a lack of discipline in people from the initiates to the structures. It can’t be correct to blame
traditional leaders as this is a societal issue that we need to work together to solve. The fact that there are illegal
schools means everyone is unaware. As I speak to you, we are busy chasing after initiates who are running away
from us and we cannot tell whether they are illegal or not,” he said.
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