Deputy Minister of Traditional Affairs, Obed Bapela, has re-emphasised the zero tolerance approach to initiation school fatalities.
In a statement on Friday, he said he was saddened to report an increase in the number of initiation deaths. One more death was reported in Mbizana in the Eastern Cape on Thursday.
"The total number of young boys that have lost their lives since the start of the initiation season has risen to 26. Twenty one initiates are from the Eastern Cape, four from Mpumalanga, and one from Western Cape," he said.
Deputy Minister Bapela will on Thursday visit the Eastern Cape to assess the areas that have recorded the highest number of deaths since the initiation season began.
The deaths come as government continues to call on traditional leaders to ensure that there are no illegal initiation schools that are in operation.
The Department of Traditional Affairs, working together with the Department of Health, the South African Police Services the National House of Traditional Leaders and various social stakeholders, has made efforts to reduce the number of initiation deaths this season.
The deputy minister commended the police for arresting seven people who were allegedly operating illegal schools in the Eastern Cape on Thursday. About 11 initiates were rescued from the schools.
"The National Prosecuting Authority would be speeding up prosecution of the arrested owners of illegal schools. The Department of Traditional Affairs will in the immediate future take the policy on initiation which was consulted upon for adoption," said the Deputy Minister.
The policy will, among other things, identify the authority to register all initiation schools as approved by the traditional leaders. This will be guided by norms and standards such as the location, equipment, facilities and conditions and the development of curriculum for the initiates under the guidance of the National House of Traditional Leaders and other institutions.
To report illegal initiation schools, communities can call the Department of Health's Collen Bonnecwe on 012 395 8021 or the Department of Traditional Affairs' Modiegi Madiga on 082 822 5878 or the National House of Traditional Leaders' Kgoshi Mahlangu on 071 461 0475 or CODEFSA's Nkululeko Nxesi on 072 530 8090.