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Speech of the Chairperson of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee: Hon. Richard Mdakane on Customary Initiation Bill

4 December 2018

Honourable Speaker
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers present
Honourable Members
Fellow South Africans
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour for me to stand before you today and take part in this important debate on a Bill that seeks to protect, promote and regulate initiation and provide acceptable norms and standards for structures at national and provincial levels, with a view to ensure that initiation takes place in a controlled and safe environment.

An essential debate that deliberates on protection of life, the prevention of injuries and prevention of abuse in any form, during and after initiation. The customary practice of initiation has unfortunately been subject to abuse. In many instances it has resulted in the death of initiates, while numerous initiates have suffered serious bodily harm. The Bill is needed to protect but also regulate the customary practice of initiation uniformly across the country.

This Bill is the product of many public participation in process of law making. People throughout the country in all provinces made their valuable contributions, because they are the custodians of our culture, customs and tradition. The public participation process raised the problem of tsotsies elements of highjacking the customs for money making purposes.

Honourable Speaker it is highly crucial to highlight the mission of Traditional Affairs as it is informed by the National Development Plan and Back-to-Basics; it is to transform, develop and promote cohesiveness of traditional affairs institutions through monitoring and providing support to the institution in its administration of the affairs of traditional communities in accordance with customs and traditions. In the State of the Nation Address in February 2018 President Cyril Ramaphosa invited each one of us to participate in the building of our country.

The call is a reminder that whatever we do as public representatives and civil servants, in different spheres of government, we remain servants of the people.

We have the responsibility to take forward the struggle for the improvement of the lives of our people. We have to carry the baton as successors of the many South African people who led our struggle for freedom, justice, equality and democracy and vowed never to rest until we reach zero death of initiates and the lives of our people change for the better.

The objectives of the Bill are to provide for the effective regulation of customary initiation practices. To provide for the establishment of a National Initiation Oversight Committee and Provincial Initiation Coordinating Committees and their functions.

To provide for the responsibilities, roles and functions of the various role-players involved in initiation practices as such or in the governance aspects thereof. To provide for the effective regulation of initiation schools.

To provide for regulatory powers of the Minister and Premiers.

To provide for the monitoring of the implementation of the Bill (once enacted) and to provide for provincial peculiarities.

Honourable Speaker Parliament does not intend to usurp traditional initiation while formulating the Customary Initiation Bill, the African National Congress (ANC) would like to reassured Traditional leaders that their contribution to this Bill is extremely vital and Amakhosi worked very well with us and we love them.

Their authority is guaranteed in the South African Constitution. Through this piece of legislation, we are doing something for the nation. We cannot have a culture that brings tears to the people. Customary Initiation is practiced by many communities in South Africa as a sacred and respected practice, and in some instances is regarded as a rite of passage to adulthood.

Honourable Speaker COGTA Portfolio Committee got input from Traditional Authorities on how best to practice the tradition. The committee held its public hearings into the Bill, where people emphasized the difference between medical circumcision and traditional initiation, as well as the role of Amakhosi in the tradition.

Initiation is an embodiment of ideals, values and aspirations of both
the individual and the community, reflected in the transfer of teachings about culture, tradition and respect (especially for women and the elderly). The customary practice of initiation has been subject to abuse; which in many instances has resulted in serious injuries and even the death of initiates.

Honourable Speaker we should not shy away the fact that initiation schools have not been effectively regulated. The existing relevant laws only deal with certain aspects of initiation and not with initiation in general; and some initiation schools operate for personal financial gain only with little or no concern for the well-being of initiates.

Honourable Speaker government has a duty to protect the lives of initiates; a duty to set norms and standards within which the customary practice of initiation must take place and all role-players involved in initiation must be accountable for their respective duties, roles; functions and responsibilities.

The customary practice of initiation must where necessary, be transformed to reflect the Constitutional principles especially the principles contained in the Bill of Rights and all role-players have an obligation to restore the integrity and legitimacy of the customary practice of initiation.

Honourable Speaker it concerned ANC government when culture was distorted and often told from the perspective of people; who have no interest in the culture. Distortion causes mayhem. It is important for society to understand what is being taught at initiation schools. The content of the schools should be proper, such that parents feel at ease when their children are at initiation schools. Culture is about the development of society.

Honourable Chairperson we want to return better men and women from these schools. This Bill provokes discussions throughout the country.

In conclusion, Honourable Speaker let me emphasize that the Bill provides a regulatory framework for the cultural initiation practice. This Bill was tabled in Parliament on 5 April 2018; finalized and adopted by CoGTA Portfolio Committee on 14 November 2018. Today 4 December 2018 is being debated in the National Assembly thereafter it will be referred to the NCOP.

ANC support the Bill.

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