Initiation Death Tracker [South Africa] 

Calling attention to some of the things that hails us and that we can collectively do something about.


What is Male Initiation?

On the South African government’s website*, male initiation is defined as:

Male initiation in South Africa refers to a cultural practice that marks the transformation of young men to adulthood.

The website further states: “The cultural practice of male initiation involves circumcision. Male initiation prepares young men to be responsible men in society.”

Whilst the government promotes certain best practises including would: “be initiates ensuring they are medical fit to under go the procedure” etc., the initiation season is marked year on year with initiate deaths that many believe could be avoided.

How many have died?

City Press, a South African Newspaper, puts the number of deaths in one province of South Africa in the 2018 initiation season at 19. Whilst Mail and Guardian, another reputable news organisation puts the reported number at 34. Either way, these deaths are one too many and it is important that we asa society find a lasting solution to the challenges leading to these deaths without trampling on a people’s cultural believes and practises.

Why the tracker?

The impact of the deaths of these young men may not have been felt equally around the country. Media reports on the matter whilst continuous and attempts to keep the issues within society’s consciousness, may have contributed in some ways to normalising the scourge.

It becomes important that civil society takes steps to keep the issue top of mind and keep policy makers and law enforcement on their feet in to ensure existing policies and rules are consistently adhered to whilst empowering the public with required tools to engage with policy makers and other key stakeholders to map out new ways of dealing with the challenges inherent in current practises around initiation.

We offer the Initiation Death Tracker as an experimental tool to stoke such level of public consciousness and engagement on the subject.

What will the tracker do or look like?

A lot of thoughts and work is still being put into place. However, the tracker is expected to:

  1. Present the faces and names of initiates who have passed on directly as a result of complications fro their initiation process or that is in some way related to that;
  2. Tell the stories of these initiates. We will rely on existing but uncontested reporting and label all sources of information;
  3. Where possible, conduct fresh interviews with families of victims;
  4. Triangulate the lead causes of deaths;
  5. Invite and document expert opinions on these leading causes of deaths;
  6. Encourage the public to engage with data, help with fact checking the collected data and assist in growing the data base.

How do you get involved?

To get involved, kindly email: hello@dotcivics.org and we will be in touch. Otherwise, you could simply monitor this page as well as our social channels.

Here is a list of some additional readings on the subject:

  1. Mail And Guardian’s Library of content on the subject of Male Initiation in South Africa.
  2. Government website with details of what is expected before, during and after the initiation


*South African Government’s website: https://www.gov.za/issues/male-initiations [Accessed on Sat., 27 April, 2019]. A copy of the page referenced is archived on the waybackmachine at this location: https://web.archive.org/web/20190427070241/https://www.gov.za/issues/male-initiations

**Cover Image: Copied from M&G’s website here. All Copyright’s of original creator are asserted.

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