On Tuesday, three initiates were killed when their initiation hut burned down in Mdantsane.
Mamkeli Ngam, a spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, confirmed the deaths, stating that department officials had visited the initiation school and were still gathering evidence to determine “exactly what happened.”
Ngam stated that two of the initiates were taken to Cecilia Makiwane Hospital with serious burns, but they died as a result of their injuries.
The third appeared to have died at the scene of the fire.
The 17-year-old initiates had completed the rite of passage on Friday.
Nkosi Mpumalanga Gwadiso, chair of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, said it looks that strong winds pushed flames onto the grass house, causing it to catch fire shortly after 00:00.
He stated that the three deaths were the first of the initiation season.
Gwadiso added: “We are cautioning people to be vigilant. It’s winter and the weather can turn without expectation. Be careful about the fire inside the hut at night. It’s a normal thing to have a fire in the hut, but we need to be careful and prevent disaster.”
Gwadiso stated that one of the initiates seemed to have entered the camp illegally, and that police and the House of Traditional Leaders would investigate the circumstances surrounding his initiation.
Ngam stated that it was unclear whether anyone had been apprehended.
At the time of publication, Eastern Cape police had not responded to demands for comment.