Parliament, Friday, 27 November 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), today heard that the preservation and sanctity of life at customary initiation schools must be conservatively maintained.

The committee received briefings today from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on, among other things, remodeling of the Community Workers Programme (CWP), progress report on the implementation of the recommendation of the five forensic reports commissioned on the CWP including a breakdown of the cost of the investigations and on initiation.

The committee heard that almost 230 young men died in the last three years due to initiations gone wrong at some of the initiation schools. It also heard that the Cabinet has decided that provinces, together with traditional leaders, should be responsible for the registration and accreditation of all initiation schools and for ensuring that they comply with all the health protocols prior to the resumption of customary initiations.

The committee was informed that the Eastern Cape Government has written to national CoGTA requesting permission to open for the summer season.

The Deputy Minister of CoGTA, Mr Obed Bapela, has informed the committee that the recent media statement which was issued was as a result of government alerting the country that the opening of initiation schools was prohibited during the lockdown. However, the Minister of CoGTA, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, clarified that government was not opposed to initiation schools being opened, but they can be opened provided that a plan is devised and submitted which takes into consideration the Covid-19 regulations and safety measures. This plan, Dr Dlamini-Zuma said, will be forwarded to the National Corona Command Council for approval before the Eastern Cape could open.

The Chairperson of the CoGTA committee, Ms Faith Muthambi, said that early next year the committee will hold a colloquium to bring together the various role players such as the National House of Traditional Leaders, Congress of Traditional Leaders, Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission, Isibazana, non-governmental organisations (NPOs) and the government, among other stakeholders, to look into the tradition and customary practices of our people.

The committee also received a briefing on the remodeling of the Community Workers Programme (CWP) which is responsible for the bulk of the department’s operational expenditure to implementing partners and beneficiaries. Ms Muthambi, said that over the last seven financial years a cumulative value of approximately R15.5 billion has been spent on this programme and enquired on the value for money of this programme, as the audit history over the last seven years is a serious concern.

During the 2012/13 reporting period, there was an irrecoverable amount of R428.6 million relating to an irregular CWP contract. It was the same for the 2013/14 period which also recorded irrecoverable irregularities amounting to R337.7 million, again owing to unlawful CWP tender awards and ghost workers. During the same period, the department obtained permission from the National Treasury to write off and remove from its books an amount of R804.6 million and there was no consequence management for these irregular contracts.

The committee heard that in one instance a non-profit organisation (NPO) was paid more than the total budget for the National House of Traditional Leaders and they called for the funds for rural areas to be transferred to traditional authorities for them to manage the programme.

The committee requested the department to provide it with a detailed progress report on the implementation of the recommendations of the audit and forensic reports on the CWP, including a breakdown of the cost of the investigations, the name of the NPOs, and the breakdown of the funds transferred to them.


For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the Committee’s Media Officer:

Name: Sureshinee Govender
Parliamentary Communication Services
Tel: 021 403 2239
Cell: 081 704 1109