Opening the Indaba, CoGTA Minister honourable Des van Rooyen made a commitment that frank and robust discussions will characterize this inaugural meeting of traditional leaders representing different constituencies across the country. Indeed, no stone was left unturned in the quest to establish the facts and the truth behind some of the challenges that continue to besiege this important institution.
This historic meeting is not an end, but the beginning of many engagements still to come and geared to addressing key issues affecting the sector. The Indaba attended by a range of stakeholders, like – “traditional leaders, Kings, members of CONTRALESA, government officials across all spheres, as well as academics”.
The delegates were divided into four commissions whose content will assist to chart the way ahead for the institution of traditional leadership. Since this was the first gathering of its kind, convened at the request of Amakhosi, it was important to allow maximum discussions of all issues within this sector.
Recognized by the constitution, the institution of traditional leaders has the right to exist side by side with other structures and spheres of government working in partnership to improve the lives of the people. The indaba agreed the commissions will assist to contextualize issues and put them in the correct context.
The following commissions were able to guide the discussions and ultimately the resolutions on key issues.
- Land Ownership, Tenure Rights and Radical Socio-economic Development.
- Institutional Capacity
- Nation building and Social Cohesion in the context of Ubuntu
- Constitutional and Legislative mandate
Nation building and Social Cohesion in the context of Ubuntu
The first commission looked Nation building and Social Cohesion in the context of Ubuntu. The commission looked into the role played by the institution of traditional leaders in nation building and social cohesion through programmes like heritage and cultural functions and moral regeneration. The discussions recognized the diversity of people and cultures in our country and the need for peaceful coexistence. Very close to this area was the issue of language and culture which also serve to promote diversity and promote cognitive development in society. The commission noted that culture, religion and language are inextricably bound. Traditional structures have for many years assisted to bring about order and the promotion of peace in communities, but this role was not recognized the oppressive government’s that existed until 1994. Now with the democratic dispensation, there is a need to have the elected representatives working closely with the traditional leaders, this is in recognition of the diversity in our country. Leaders were urged to lead with integrity and fairness recognizing the diversity in the respective areas. The Indaba agreed that social cohesion and nation building goes hand in hand with the Principle of Ubuntu. Linked to this key elements is the issue of moral regeneration which should also be promoted amongst communities together with social cohesion and nation building.
Constitutional and Legislative mandate
The second commission considered the mandate of the institution of traditional leadership as derived from the Constitution and other pieces of legislation. The delegates in this commission discussed the implication of chapter 7 and 12 of the Constitution in relation to the roles, powers and functions of the institution of traditional leadership in a democracy. The Constitution of South Africa, Act 108 of 1998 recognizes the institution of traditional leadership and it role within the democratic dispensation. This Commission looked at the legislative gaps which failed to address roles and functions of Traditional Leaders and has to this effect made extensive recommendations. Amongst the number of recommendations made, the commission recommended the amendment of the constitution, especially chapter 12 to ensure that the roles and function of the traditional leaders are recognized and they are empowered. The issues of palaces of traditional leaders and their remuneration came to the fore. The commission also suggested that all bills must also be shared with the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL).
The fourth commission dealt with Institutional Capacity. The intention was to come up with mechanisms to effectively support the institution of Traditional leadership. The commission believe that the effective support will ensure that the structures of the Institution of traditional leadership function effectively. The commission recommended that the Traditional Councils should be changed to Traditional Authority as provided for in the Constitution. Traditional leaders should take full control of their environment and lead communities as expected.
There should be adequate budget allocated – (R5mil baseline) and capacity building for members of the traditional authority, royal family and royal council. Of importance is that there is closer working relations between government and the institution of traditional leaders to ensure that programme implemented correctly and uniformly.
The commission also suggested that a skills audit for the institution of traditional leadership to check gaps and what needs to be done should be constituted. Through skills audit, government should assist traditional leadership capacitate their traditional authorities to do the work. Traditional Leaders must be included in induction programme and all CoGTA, and funds must be committed. To ensure better, efficient and effective delivery of services, skills development for traditional leaders. Remuneration Commission must look at the salaries of traditional leaders in line with their core responsibilities. The delegates raised concerns about the issues of traditional leaders’ remuneration. Kings and Queens must be remunerated fairly across the board. Replacement of traditional leaders must be expedited to ensure continuity. A special pension fund for Traditional leaders and the gratuity Non returning members of the committees and houses must receive gratuity. In addition, the commission suggested that the traditional leaders be allocated 10 seats in the NCOP.
Land Ownership, Tenure Rights and Radical Socio-economic Development
The fourth commission looked at Land Ownership, Tenure Rights and Radical Socio-economic Development. The topic of this commission became the main discussion area and a focal point. The commission noted that land ownership should come with the capacity to manage land and its resources. The commission recommended that 13% of the land be returned to the traditional authorities. The indaba noted that the nature and the struggle in South Africa was against disposition of land which begun in 1652 and cemented through variety of legislations including the 1913 Native Land Act. It was in this context that Sol Plaatjie said – “Awaking on the morning of Friday 20 June 1913 – the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth”. The indaba showed that the issue of land is very emotive and personal to many South Africans, especially the traditional leaders.
The Indaba and the four commission provided a platform for all stakeholders to discuss and address issues affecting this important institution of traditional leaders and their communities as well as the role of traditional leaders in radical economic development and land matters. The meeting was indeed a platform and provided an opportunity for delegates to engage robustly.
The Indaba agreed that ongoing discussions on the issue of land and other related matters will continue. Judging by the level of discussions, this indaba was not another talk shop, but strategic platform that was able to lay bare challenges effecting the institution of traditional leadership and made recommendations going forward.