With just two months remaining before the initiation seasons begins, the Somagwaza Institute has expressed frustration and concerns over the ongoing illegal erection of shacks on land set aside for initiation sites.
The ongoing land grabs across the metro seem to threaten the practice of the culture of ulwaluko in the province in general.
The institute said it was extremely worrying that almost every year they were losing initiation sites due to illegal land grabs.
Chairperson, Sikelela Zokufa, said over the past few years they had lost about eight initiation sites to, among others, housing and shopping centre developments or the illegal construction of shacks.
But, he said, when they lose these sites to land grabs it was especially painful because those illegally occupying the land were black people who understood the cultural significance of the sites.
Mr Zokufa said they were hopeful that the few remaining sites wouldn’t be invaded and would be protected so that they could preserve this culture.
He said a few weeks ago they had to call in law enforcement agencies to remove people who had occupied a site near Nyanga Junction.
He said currently there is one site, in Langa, which had been rezoned and fenced, and called for this to be done to the other initiation sites too.
“We are going to fight tooth and nail to protect these sites that we need strongly,” said Mr Zokufa.
“We feel that the City must have a framework or a policy regarding initiation on what role they will play. We also feel that the City is supporting other cultural activities and yet no budget has been put in place for this practice.
“In African culture, we believe that a cultural practice brings healing to us. I also appeal to people who do their customs and culture in the Eastern Cape to respect those that practice their culture in the province. In that way we can respect each other. The sites that are remaining must be rezoned and have signage,” he said.
Mr Zokufa said it had been particularly painful when they lost an initiation site where Marikana now is, with residents building shacks there while initiates were still on site.
Ward 14 councillor, Sonwabo Ngxumza, said he had written to the mayor requesting that the City put aside some funds to fence off initiation sites and plant trees on them. He noted that they had also met with the members of Somagwaza Institute and had had detailed discussions about their concerns.
Chief Lungelo Nokwaza said while they understood that people needed land on which to build their homes, he urged them not to occupy initiation sites.