Usiko Rites of Passage

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"Shortly before the country's first democratic elections in 1994 members of the African National Congress's legal fraternity established a think tank on juvenile justice. Specialists from many sectors responded and these, after the elections, became the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Young People at Risk. Its task was to consult widely and draw up a White Paper on Youth Justice. This eventually became the Child Justice Bill which awaits passage through parliament. Its key tenets are diversion out of the justice system, community courts and community and victim involvement in legal decisions. When passed it will be among the most enlightened youth justice legislation in the world.

"One of the White Paper's principal drafters, criminologist Don Pinnock, concerned at the lack of diversion options once the Bill became law, undertook extensive research into traditional approached to adolescent containment and wrote a programme, published as Gangs, Rituals and Rites of Passage. The study stressed the importance of ancient rites and rituals in youth development and the value of wilderness as a site of powerful transformatory experience for inner-city adolescents.

"These ideas within gave rise to a conference attended by representatives from many state departments, NGO's and South Africa's most respected Zulu shaman, Credo Mutwa. At this conference Usiko was formed - named by Mutwa (the name means a number of things, including 'first ritual') - and tasked with the community-based development of the rites of passage technology.

"The aim of Usiko was, therefore, to create programmes for young people at risk that were restorative, in line with the pending legislation, and combined rituals, both ancient and modern, with the challenging and healing environment of the earth's great wilderness areas. It aimed, in short, to unlock the potential of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Andrew Muir of the Wilderness Leadership School and Pinnock raised funds from the Open Society Foundation to undertake further research into programme development and to begin operations. They were joined by Marion Goodman of Educo and Philip van Zyl who was retained to operationalise the process. These four are the founding members." [1]


Usiko has been generously supported in its work by: [2]

Usiko Trust

Accessed June 2010: [3]



Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. A Brief History, Usiko Rites of Passage, accessed June 16, 2010.
  2. Funders, Usiko Rites of Passage, accessed June 16, 2010.
  3. People, Usiko Rites of Passage, accessed June 16, 2010.