MPUMALANGA - At least 20 boys have died in the last six days after attending initiation schools in Mpumalanga, police said on Tuesday.
The deaths occurred at schools in Belfast, KwaMhlanga, Kwaggafontein, Verena and Middelburg, Colonel Leonard Hlathi said.
"We have opened murder cases."
No arrests had been made and police were still collecting statements. The information would then be presented to the national director of public prosecutions for a decision on how to proceed.
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane was saddened by the deaths of young people at initiation schools in South Africa.
"The reported loss of several young lives in Mpumalanga and elsewhere in the country is regrettable," he said in a statement.
"This has happened to young people who were still at their prime, looking forward to a brighter future where they could still reach their potential."
He said the boys attended initiation schools with the hope of reaching manhood.
"We call on the traditional leadership to work together with government to prevent this regrettable loss of lives."
Mpumalanga co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Simon Skhosana and the chairman of the province's house of traditional leaders, Kgoshi Mathibela Mokoena, conveyed their condolences to the families of the initiates.
In a statement the department said its disaster management centre had provided tents which department of health officials used as mobile clinics at some of the initiation schools.
"These tents are spread across all areas in the province where there are initiation schools. The department is working closely with the department of health to ensure the safety of initiates."