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By Luzuko | Jun 25, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

ONCE again the winter season has come upon us. For most people it's time to add an extra blanket.

ONCE again the winter season has come upon us. For most people it's time to add an extra blanket.

For some boy in Eastern Cape, this time presents him with an opportunity to take a journey to better his life, to become a man and a respected member of the community.

Going to initiation school is a day the boy yearns for. It is a day anticipated by his parents and celebrated by the community. It is a milestone and a true beginning of his life.

But lately, this has changed as the custom is marred by the deaths of a few initiates. I say few because the numbers of boys who die is meagre compared to the number of those who take this journey and pass through to be become respectable members of their community, the country and the world.

This has attracted poisonous comments from people who neither care nor value this precious custom of the AmaXhosa.

These people sit on a pedestal and criticise what they do not know. They base their comments on little or unfounded knowledge.

The media has turned it into a race for numbers. For five months in the year, the media does not comment, but they jump at the first sign of a misfortune.

They hover around like vultures waiting for their prey to die. With no regard to the pain of the family and the community that has lost a loved one and a possible community leader, an accidental death of an initiate is turned into a statistic.

Worse, some unheard of stories will be concocted as the cause of death.

The media anticipates the death of initiates as if they are waiting for election results.

This has led to some prophets of doom, some disguised as social commentators who claim to have been to initiation schools, calling for the custom to be stopped.

This has led me to doubt them.

Further, everyone, except those of us who have been to initiation school, has become an overnight expert and is using the media to disrespect and discredit our custom.

Spreading malicious rumours will not deter boys from wanting to become men.

It is part of their dreams and it cannot be stopped or taken away by people who are not part of it.

The exclusion of outsiders is part of the custom . It would be sacrilegious to reveal it to satisfy your curiosity.

I am not disregarding anyone's constitutional right to information or freedom of the press, I am just exercising my right to practise my culture without any prejudice.

To say those who practise and respect the tradition do not want to talk about it is false because as men we talk about it. We just don't want to talk to outsiders about it because they are not one of us.

Initiation is not an open discussion for all; it has never been and will never be. If people do not know anything about it, it is because they are not supposed to know.

The vultures and the prophets of doom should respect that and find another topic to use as entertainment or cash cow because for us this is our life and soon we are going to get tired of such nonsense.

I am not trying to justify the deaths of initiates because one death is one too many, for whatever reason. As a result, the government and the guardians of the custom such as traditional leaders and those who matter have taken note of these.

As a people, we are rectifying the mishaps but it seems the media focuses only on the bad.

If as a male you feel the need to really know about usiko lokwaluka go there. I have not heard of anyone being turned away.

The best way to know it is by experiencing it.

If you are not interested yeka ukukhonkotha (stop barking) and stay out of it because inja ihlala ngaphandle kakade (dogs stay outside).

lLuzuko Pongoma is a Sowetan journalist. He went to initiation school nine years ago in Eastern Cape.


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