Minister Des Van Rooyen

Minister Des van Rooyen’s Address at the Second Reading Debate of the Traditional Leaders Bill



07 November 2017,

Parliament, Cape Town


Honourable Chairperson,

Honourable Members,


Good Morning,


It is wonderful to be here on this momentous occasion.


Speaking at the first presidential inauguration on 10 May 1994, our former President, Tata Madiba, had this to say:


“We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.


We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.


We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.”


These words have guided us in building this democracy into a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.


Central to this has been the adoption of the Constitution in 1996 that recognised the institutions, status and roles of traditional leadership.


The responsibility to provide a national framework, as well as norms and standards that will define the place and role of traditional institutions and leadership, within the country’s system of democratic governance, was assigned to the Minister of CoGTA.


This responsibility is attended to by the Department of Traditional Affairs.


In accordance with the provisions of Chapter 12 of the Constitution, the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act, Act 41 of 2003, was adopted by Parliament. This Act makes provisions for the recognition of traditional communities and leaders and also provides for traditional leadership structures.


In 1997, Parliament adopted the Council of Traditional Leaders Act which was replaced by the National House of Traditional Leaders Act, Act 22 of 2009.


During the implementation of both these laws, various limitations and implementation challenges were identified.


While certain traditional structures and leadership positions have therefore been recognised by law in compliance with the constitutional prescripts, there has never before been statutory recognition of the Khoi-San.


In the late 1990s, the National Khoi-San Council was established to assist government with all matters concerning the Khoi and San communities. This Council consists of representatives of the five main groupings namely the Cape-Khoi, Griqua, Koranna, Nama and San.


Together with the National Khoi-San Council, government over many years conducted research into the history of the Khoi-San communities and developed criteria to be used for the official recognition of Khoi-San communities and leaders.


It was therefore decided to prepare a single Bill that would recognize the Khoi-San and repeal and replace the Framework Act and the National House Act.


This would have a number of benefits, including ensuring an integrated approach in dealing with all matters relating to traditional affairs.


It would also enhance the uniform manner in which matters relating to traditional affairs are dealt with across the country.


The Bill would also address legal uncertainties and gaps that have been identified in the two pieces of legislation.


This Bill has been a long time in the making.


The drafting of the TKLB commenced in 2010 and was subject to extensive consultation as is clear from the Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill.


Various versions of the Bill were drafted and it was continuously improved until it was eventually tabled in Parliament in September 2015.


The National Khoi-San Council played an important role in the drafting of the clauses related to the Khoi-San and also accompanied departmental officials during extensive community consultations in 2011 and 2012.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Khoi-San Council for their leadership and support throughout this process.


Honourable Members,


As far as traditional leadership is concerned, the TKLB—


  • makes provisions for the recognition of headmenship and headwomenship which is one of the gaps identified in the existing Framework Act;


  • makes provision for the effective monitoring of traditional leadership councils;


  • promotes fair administrative justice by making provision for proper investigations in cases where for example there is an allegation that a community or leader does not meet the criteria for recognition; and


  • makes provisions for greater accountability of the National House.


Provision is also made for the effective regulating of partnerships and agreements to ensure that such partnerships and agreements are beneficial to the relevant communities.


Existing partnerships and agreements will have to be reviewed to test whether they comply with the requirements of the new law.


The contribution of the Portfolio Committee to strengthen this particular clause is much appreciated.


Of particular importance, is that the Bill addresses the existing gaps in respect of financial systems, accounting systems and the auditing of leadership councils.


Again, the Portfolio Committee played an important role in improving the clause.


The functions and roles of traditional leaders and councils as contained in the Bill are of an advisory, facilitative, supportive and participatory nature.


This is also clear from the proposed amendment to section 81 of the Municipal Structures Act.


It is trusted that this amendment will ensure more effective participation of traditional and Khoi-San leaders in municipal council proceedings.


As far as the Khoi-San is concerned, the Bill is of historical value as for the first time ever, statutory provision is made for the recognition of Khoi-San communities and leaders.


During the initial recognition process, government will be assisted by a Commission on Khoi-San Matters.


It is important to note that the public will be requested to nominate persons who can serve on this Commission.


The Commission will include experts in Khoi-San customs and customary law.


Recognised Khoi-San communities will have to establish Khoi-San councils for such communities, similar to traditional councils.


The Bill makes provision for the integration of recognised Khoi-San leaders into the houses of traditional leaders, which will in future be known as houses of traditional and Khoi-San leaders.


Ultimately it is the duty of the institutions of traditional and Khoi-San leadership —


  • to promote democratic governance and the values of an open and democratic society;


  • to progressively advance gender equality within the institutions of traditional and Khoi-San leadership;


  • to promote freedom, human dignity and the achievement of equality and non-sexism;


  • to enhance tradition, culture, nation building and harmony and peace amongst people; and


  • to promote the principles of co-operative governance in its interaction with all spheres of government and organs of state.


I wish to thank all the members of the CoGTA Portfolio Committee for their dedication to this Bill and the many months spent on public hearings.


The various amendments to the Bill as proposed by members of the Portfolio Committee have resulted in an improved product, one which we can be proud of.


I also wish to thank the National Khoi-San Council for their contributions over many years and all Khoi and San people for having been patient while the formal legislative processes took place.


Lastly, I wish to thank the Director-General and officials of the Department of Traditional Affairs who have been working on this Bill and managed its processing through the various stages over the past few years.


I hope this Bill is passed speedily, bringing an end to a historic process and marking the beginning of a new and improved journey, not only for the Khoi-San, but for all traditional communities in South Africa.


It is through reconciliatory actions such as these that the memory of Madiba is kept alive.


I thank you.