Government and its partners have called on communities to report illegal initiation schools in their communities in a bid to save lives of initiates.
Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela, working together with the National House of Traditional Leaders, the Department of Health, the South African Police Services, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities and the Congress of Traditional Leaders have agreed to work together to save lives.
They reiterated their call on zero tolerance to initiation fatalities.
The deputy minister said it was sad to report that the number of initiates who have lost their lives has increased to 23.
"This is despite all the efforts we have made jointly with all our stakeholders. Ninetten initiates are from the Eastern Cape, three from Mpumalanga, and one from Western Cape," Deputy Minister Bapela said on Thursday.
A further 104 young men have been admitted in hospitals for various treatments ranging from dehydration, septic circumcision, gangrene and other chronic illnesses. "Government has a duty to protect lives of its citizens. It therefore calls upon all stakeholders, including parents to work together with the health practitioners.
"The death of young men who are the future of the country cannot be tolerated any further, it cannot continue in this way. Government further appeals to all structures of traditional leadership to put an end to this tragic situation and continue to work together with the established monitoring teams including law enforcement agencies," Deputy Minister Bapela said.
Traditional Leaders are required by their customs and customary law to protect their communities including initiates.
He commended the police for closing down illegal schools in Gauteng and arresting the principal of the school.
Police in Lenasia, in Gauteng, were able to close down a bogus initiation school, on Monday. The police have established a Task Force to directly respond and arrest owners of illegal schools.
Community members are advised to report illegal schools at the Department of Health to Collen Bonnecwe on 012 395 8021, Department of Traditional Affairs: Modiegi Madiga on 082 822 5878. National House of Traditional Leaders: Kgoshi Mahlangu on 071 461 0475 or Nkululeko Nxesi on 072 530 8090.