TO DATE, 39 young South Africans have died while undergoing "initiation" in 2010. That alone is harrowing.

TO DATE, 39 young South Africans have died while undergoing "initiation" in 2010. That alone is harrowing.

In South Africa there are many threats to the quality of life - from poverty through to HIV-Aids - each of which makes day-to-day life extremely difficult for millions of South Africans.

No one should have to face the prospect of death or the threat of severe disfigurement.

It is neither constitutional nor justifiable, and there falls an onus on this government to take action to protect life, and properly regulate a practice that has become notorious.

In order to properly understand the problem, two different aspects need to be understood: first, to what degree are those responsible for circumcision acting in compliance with minimum health standards; secondly, to what degree is the initiations practice itself a threat to the health and safety of an individual?

If unregulated, both of these elements constitute a threat to the basic human rights of any person.

To properly address these two areas of concern, the DA believes it is necessary for the Department of Traditional Affairs, together with the Department of Health, to establish a Task-Team, the purpose of which is to properly interrogate each area and make recommendations.

It is the responsibility of the Department of Traditional Affairs to monitor the number of initiation schools operating in South Africa while the Department of Health should ensure that those schools meet basic health standards to prevent future deaths like those experienced this winter season.

Until now, none of these mechanisms has been in place.

The DA can reveal that in the Eastern Cape, where the problem of illegal initiation schools is most pervasive, the provincial department of health apparently does not have a well-resourced inspectorate to deal with matters arising from illegal initiation schools.

Most egregiously, there is no coordinated attempt to address this problem at all and none has been put in place either, despite the meeting that took place last week between the Eastern Cape MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Gcobana, the MEC for Health, Phumulo Masualle, and the monarch of the Western Pondoland, King Ndamase.

Action is needed to prevent more deaths in future and this will only come about if government departments can learn to work together.

The DA will recommend to the ministers of Health and Traditional Affairs respectively that their departments form a task team to investigate:

lthe actual number of initiation schools operating in the Eastern Cape.

l criteria for formal registration of initiation schools and practitioners.

l criteria of minimum health standards for initiation schools to comply with.

l an inspectorate that would ensure compliance with established criteria.

Once such a task-team has been put in place, desperately needed regulation can begin and those practitioners found to have violated the established regulations can be brought to account by the South African Police Service.

Indeed, the confusion over the crimes committed has been one of the major factors preventing the arrest of the individuals concerned.

lThe writer is the DA spokesperson on health