Cops, NPA war over initiation deaths
Bring us proper cases that we can win in court, say prosecutors
The National Prosecuting Authority has been accused of refusing to prosecute suspects linked to traditional initiation cases, resulting in illegal surgeons who may have killed initiates walking off scot-free.
But the NPA hit back yesterday, saying police should come up with dockets that had a reasonable chance in court.
Bhisho legislature cooperative governance and traditional affairs committee chairman Mninawa Nyusile and his health counterpart, Mxolisi Dimaza, this week heard both police and traditional leaders blame the NPA for the continuing deaths.
The politicians were at a crisis meeting aimed at averting further deaths in Mpondoland, where 12 initiates have died this season so far. The provincial toll is 15 since day one, June 12.Deaths include a mentally challenged man, 49, from Port St Johns. The latest is a 13-year-old from Libode who died on Wednesday. The body was allegedly brought in a wheelbarrow and dumped at his mother’s house.
NPA regional spokesman Luxolo Tyali asked for specific case examples of refusals to prosecute. “We enrol cases based on the strength of the evidence. We do not charge and prosecute people willy nilly.”
Mthatha cluster chief prosecutor Vuyani Genu attends OR Tambo traditional initiation forum meetings, but did not attend this week’s one.
Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders chairman Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana called for a dedicated initiation court.
“Many suspects we arrested have been released,” said Ngqeleni circumcision coordinator Warrant Officer Makhosonke Gabuza. “It is demoralising to us as arresting officers. We’re now afraid of litigation if we continue to arrest these people.”He told the MPLs that due to prosecutors declining to act in a number of cases – including an 84-year-old traditional surgeon said to have illegally circumcised six underage boys in Buntingville this season – Ngqeleni police resolved to make no arrests but only take statements. “We will arrest only after the NPA decides to prosecute. We must not be sued for unlawful arrest.”
Nonkonyana said: “In Nyandeni there are 11 deaths and 230 illegal circumcisions. Some boys are 12. There are assault cases, yet suspects are free.”
He said in the case of the 13-year-old, “that suspect was set free by the prosecutor”.
Police circumcision coordinators said prosecutors were still using the repealed Eastern Cape Application of Health Standards in Traditional Circumcision Act of 2001, which allowed boys under 18 to be circumcised if they had parental consent, an affidavit from police and a fitness certificate from a medical doctor.
The new law, the Eastern Cape Customary Male Initiation Practice Act 5 of 2016, allows only males18 years and above to be circumcised.
Nyusile and Dimaza promised to meet with Mthatha cluster deputy prosecution director Barry Madolo, and Nonkonyana said he would take it up with the Eastern Cape Judge President Selby Mbenenge.
Police provincial commissioner Lieutenant-Colonel Liziwe Ntshinga established a dedicated team of detectives to focus on initiation crimes and provided each of the 196 police circumcision coordinators with a vehicle...