Four initiates died after being kicked around by their caregivers and ordered to stand naked on a cold and snowy morning in Mpumalanga last month.
According to an investigative report compiled for the provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and seen by African Times, the initiates were kicked until “some of them fainted”, but it is not clear why they were subjected to such a “terrible punishment”.
The incident happened at an initiation school on Goedehoop Farm in Leslie near Bethal in the Mpumalanga Highveld. African Times has established that the school, which had 11 initiates, is owned by a man only known as Mr Ditshego.
According to the report, four caregivers were arrested, and some of them confessed on camera that the initiates died due to abuse. The victims were aged between 16 and 27.
“According to the information we have received from our investigators, the initiates were ordered to stand outside in the snow at 3 am. It is still not clear why they were subjected to such a terrible punishment by the caregivers. The caregivers took turns kicking the initiates with safety boots until some of them fainted,” said the report.
“The abuse that the initiates suffered came to light after a recent incident in which the initiates died after being reportedly exposed to coldness and beaten up. The information at our disposal shows that after the initiates were subjected to that abuse they were taken inside the Kraal, where they were forced to cover themselves with wet blankets. Some of them were found dead in the morning.”
African Times has seen some of the confession videos. In one of the videos, a caregiver clad in an orange overall was asked whether they killed the initiates.
The unidentified man responded: “We can say that. It’s not helpful to deny it. We can’t deny it. But it was not our intention to kill them. We had no idea it would end like this.”
The Customary Initiation Act of 2021 prohibits the assault of initiates as a form of disciplinary method.
The Initiation school owner, Ditshego, conceded that the initiates died at his school but refused to divulge more information.
“I am just like you. I don’t know what exactly happened. Let us wait for the post-mortem results, and we will take it from there. But I am sure that whatever they told you is not true because those who gave you the information even failed to give you my full name. I prefer that you come to me so that we can talk face-to-face,” he said.
Mpumalanga Cogta spokesperson Lindiwe Msibi said she was working on the response relating to the deaths of the four initiates.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala confirmed the incident, saying the police were still awaiting the postmodern results.
“Tomorrow, Friday 04 August 2023 marks exactly three weeks since four initiates lost their lives in one of the initiation schools at Goedehoop Farm in Leslie.
“The four victims aged between 16 and 27 were supposed to be part of the seven initiates who will be graduating tomorrow, Friday 04 August 2023. According to [a] report, it is alleged that the initiates lost their lives on Friday, 14 July 2023, at about 07:00. Currently, police cannot state the cause of death as they are still waiting for postmortem results. Investigation continues as the investigation team is in constant consultation with the initiation school, and hopefully, there will be a breakthrough soon,” Mohlala said.
It is not the first time initiation schools in Mpumalanga Highveld have been accused of abusing the initiates. In June, three initiates escaped from the initiation school in Kriel and went straight home after they were reportedly beaten for refusing to eat the vomit of one of the caregivers.
The escapees were taken to another school to finalize their initiation process.
Since the initiation schools started this year, at least 20 initiates died in the Eastern Cape, four died in Mpumalanga, and three were reported in Limpopo. The national Cogta department has not released the statistics for this year’s initiation school deaths.