The 1st Indigenous and Traditional Leaders Indaba, kicked off on 29 May 2017 in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, under the theme “Unity in Diversity – Together moving South Africa Forward for an inclusive prosperous future”.
The decision to convene the Indaba, follows the request by Traditional leaders to have a dialogue with government and key stakeholders on matters of common interest within this important sector in our country. “We are delighted that this important indaba, which is a major milestone in our democratic journey is indeed taking place and well attended by all stakeholders”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The Indaba started with a clear message from all the delegates that violence against the defenceless (women, children, the elderly) should stop as it has to space in our democratic society. The Indaba urged all people to voice their disgust and disapproval of this foreign practice that is developing in our country. Leaders emphasised their responsibility to protect our people, but urged communities from all their areas to play their part and put an end to this unacceptable violence.
The Indaba took place during the year dedicated to celebrating the contribution of a national icon and hero Oliver Reginald Tambo in advancing unity in the struggle for liberation. As an outstanding revolutionary, internationalist, the strategist and architect of our national struggle, he is one of those who shaped the country’s vision, mission and value system. Coincidentally, this important meeting of Amakhosi is taking place in an arena named after this icon of the people.
May is known in our country as Africa month and the hosting of this important indaba in the same month is a befitting celebration. This Indaba convened during Africa month, confirms that indeed the institution of Traditional leadership is important to the continued existence of our country and the development of its people.
In attendance at the Indaba was amongst others indigenous leaders, senior traditional leaders, Kings, Contralesa leadership, chapter 9 institutions, government leaders across the 3 spheres as well as academics from across the country.
Judging by the robust deliberations on the first day, the Indaba was definitely able provide a platform for all stakeholders to discuss and address issues affecting traditional leaders and their communities as well as the role of traditional leaders in radical economic development and land ownership matters.
The first day of the Indaba saw robust discussions by delegates engaging each other on key issues raised by various presenters:
- Small business development
- Minimal Resources
- Land Reform and ownership
The opening and keynote address delivered by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma was indeed able to set the tone for the entire Indaba and it was clear from the deliberations that ensued after his address.
The President emphasized that the institution of Traditional leadership in South Africa is recognized, hence its inclusion and prominence in our constitution and he called for closer working relation between this sector and government. Since this year (2017) will see the beginning of the new term of all houses of traditional leadership, the President indicated that this indaba will set the tone for the next 5 years of the new houses and the entire institution of traditional leaders across the country.
The President encouraged the Indaba to honestly look back and reflect on the road already travelled and the also agree on a plan of action going forward. As part of the topics that will be deliberated upon by delegates, the President touched on issues of land and its importance for communities, emphasizing its value. But he warned that communities cannot continue to be poor whilst their land has rich Minerals that do not benefit them.
The President encouraged traditional leaders to lodge land claims, but only where they have proof, not the whole of South Africa. He indicated that traditional leaders can be very helpful in this regard because their predecessors and forefathers fought land wars. In claiming land, legal experts should be roped in to assist communities, otherwise land claims may not be adequately supported.
The President lamented the practice by some communities who want financial compensation for land claimed. This practice does not help the process and it perpetuates the dispossession that government is trying to solve. “We urge those who obtain land to utilise it for food production or any other use without selling it and undermining the transformation programme”, said the President.
In this regard, the President challenges the Indaba to come up with implementable solutions to the land question, but he made it clear that government rejects and discourages any land grabs, as this will perpetuate disorder. No unlawful occupation of land is permitted and tolerated as this will cause chaos in the country, while government is not hostile to the return of the land to the people.
About 4 Ministers came through to present on key areas that they could work with communities on. The inputs of Ministers will definitely be able to shape the debates and guide the agreements to be reached by the Indaba.
The Minister of Tourism, honourable Tokozile Xasa appealed for partnerships between government and the communities led by traditional leaders. “Tourism is indeed an import sector in our country and the Role of Traditional leaders is key as many of the areas of attraction and tourist destinations are under the direct control of Amakhosi”, said Minister Xasa. SA has authentic experiences in cultures and traditions across the country and the department of Tourism is assisting to develop this areas. The focus of the department is also on developing and promoting cultural tourism which is mainly in areas under Amakhosi as the custodians of culture in the respective areas.
The Minister also touched on the importance of working together with Traditional leaders and municipalities to develop some of the land they own for tourism purposes. This will assist to bring economic opportunities to communities, hence more emphasis to ensure proper public/private partnerships for development. The Indaba agreed that it would be important to work in partnership so as to get access and tap into opportunities that can assist with job creation. Some of this partnerships will look at ensuring that communities are empowered with the necessary skills that will make it easier for them to benefit – this would include in areas like tour guiding and even telling their own stories in an attractive manner.
The Minister committed that her department will continue to develop and ensure opportunities are available to develop rural tourism and ensure that it grows better to sustain communities. Providing authentic tourism experiences to attract travellers and give them key information that will make them come back again. As emphasised in the recently held tourism conference in April 2017, the department is committed to working with local government and traditional leaders to come up with programmes geared to developing the industry and to assist communities to take this opportunities.
With regard to Small business development, honourable Minister Lindiwe Zulu also called for strong partnership with traditional leaders and their communities. Minister emphasised the need to work together to ensure the flourishing of small businesses in our various localities. Minister emphasised that the traditional institution have to work with the sector to support the local small business and ensure that it can thrive and also assist in providing the much needed jobs, whilst also assisting to reduce poverty. Growing small business, grows the economy of the country and encourages entrepreneurship.
The Minister indicated that her department will empower traditional leaders with skills that will eventually assist to empower their communities. The department will work together with all sectors to ensure the creation of cooperatives that will be supported so that they succeed. Minister Zulu indicated that even though a lot has been achieved to change the lives of communities, government is committed to working hard to achieve the objective of eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality.
The Minister of Mineral Resources, honourable Mosebenzi Zwane indicated that the gathering of traditional leaders is important for him and his department. The communities are the custodians of the riches that are mined across the country and this matter is considered within the soon to be released Mining charter.
Minister indicated that in terms of the Mining charter, communities are going to have a bigger stake in the mines that are operating in their areas. The Minister committed to engaging and working with traditional leaders to ensure that the charter is fully implemented. The charter will bring to life the idea that people must own the wealth in South Africa.
The Minister further indicated that there are plans in motion to deal with the problems of illegal mining, hence the need to work with communities across the country to stop this looting. Mining is very important in South Africa as it contributes about 7% of the total Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) of the country. Mineral resources of South Africa belongs to all its citizens.
The Minister Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), honourable Gugile Nkwinti addressed the meeting about land related issues. South was since disorganised by the 1913 Native Land Act which saw a black person’s dispossessed if their land. This debate took a lot of time as the subject of land is really emotive. The department is working with various sectors to ensure rural economic transformation and the agrarian transformation system.
The Minister committed that the debate on land will continue and perhaps this could assist to ally the fear of traditional leaders who see themselves as the rightful owners of the land.
Minister urged delegates to use land profitably and not to be left lying fallow, especially those received through the government land redistribution programme. Even though Municipalities are wall to wall in South Africa, there is a need for a greater collaboration with the institution of Traditional Leaders.
In an effort to build thriving rural areas which will be a key in development of communities, the Minister further committed that his department will build Agri-Parks in each District in the country. He emphasised that the development in communities should come via the Traditional Leadership instead of only Municipalities and this also necessitates partnerships and working together.
The first day of the Indaba were indeed a great success and the level of discussions and deliberations will assist to ensure that there is greater appreciation by all communities and government of each other roles and responsibilities.
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