Agrisa in the Eastern Cape has slammed “uncontrolled” Xhosa initiations after a fire from an initiate’s hut destroyed 20% of the Dordrecht Golf Course on Saturday.
Initiation huts are normally burnt down before dawn in preparation of an initiate’s homecoming ceremony.
The Dordrecht Golf Club’s Pieter Cloete said the fire began on a municipal commonage nearby on a windy Saturday afternoon before it spread to the golf course.
“It took the municipal firefighters 30 minutes to douse the flames.”
Chairman of AgriSA Douglas Stern appealed to leaders of the tradition to practise extra caution when it came to starting fires in drought-stricken areas.
AgriSA has called upon government and traditional leaders to amend the laws that govern traditional circumcision following the incident.
Stern said the initiation practice should be subjected to the Fires Act so that a fire-engine can be allocated and firemen be on standby.
“All we are saying is that a group of people cannot just start fires anywhere and at any time they want. There must be strict controls.
“Traditionalists of this practice should also submit a written application so firefighters can be dispatched to the ceremony and be on standby to control the fire.”
Stern said Dordrecht police refused to register a case following the incident, describing the complaint as unreasonable because it involved other people’s cultural practices.
“We are respecting everyone’s culture and traditions but we’ve got to think about land and homeowners as well,” said Stern.
Dordrecht police spokeswoman Captain Ursula Roelofse denied the allegations that the police refused to open a case.
“At this stage no case has been opened at the police station,” Roelofse said.
“As soon as the case is opened, the police will investigate it.”
Stern said professional firefighters were needed to control such situations in case a fire got out of control.
“Even the smallest fire can spread into wild, out-of-control flames, so people need to be careful.”
Stern said fires were too “costly” and “disastrous” to be left to untrained people to control.
Cloete said according to the National Fire Act, no fires should be started on weekends.
“This is a double set of laws – here children and adults just start fires anytime and anywhere they want. There is no recourse.
“We are not opposed to people’s cultures but everyone needs to practise within the context of the law.”
Cloete said he had left it to the municipality to open the case.
The Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima’s phone was off at the time of writing.
The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa also could not be reached for comment. — firstname.lastname@example.org