Following the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders on 27 February 2018, the members of the House debated the speech delivered by the President. This was the first opening of the 5th National House. The debate was also attended by a number of Ministers whose areas of work touch the traditional leadership sector.
Opening the debate, chairperson of the House, Ikosi Mahlangu recognised and appreciated the road travelled towards the recognition of this important institution. This important sector has transformed and it continues to grow from strength to strength. In this regard, he appreciated the support that government continues to give to traditional leadership sector and its structures.
Traditional leaders expressed their appreciation of the opening speech that was delivered by the President in the house. In addition, they also welcomed the opportunity to debate the speech, whilst raising key issues to be handled by the government. Of importance for Traditional Leaders was that the President and Cabinet Ministers attended the debate and were able to hear first-hand issues that were raised for ease of follow-up. The House was united in saying that the democratic government deserves the support of all stakeholders including traditional leaders in order to deliver services to communities.
All speakers agreed with the President that the institution of traditional leadership is important and that it is indeed the bedrock of our democracy, a vital resource in the hands of our people and a potent instrument bequeathed to us by our ancestors. It is within this context that there was an agreement that both government and the traditional leadership sector cannot succeed without working together. The President repeated the commitment he made during the opening of the House that government will continue working with this important sector and also supporting it to achieve its goals.
Traditional leaders voiced various issues, some being concerns, whilst on the other hand thanking government for the work done thus far and the distance travelled. According to them, one of the major concerns relates to their roles and powers. As the custodians of cultures and traditions of their communities, traditional leaders requested that the Constitution be amended so as to better clarify their roles and functions. This matter will continue to be discussed in an effort to find a lasting solution.
Another key issue raised was land and traditional leaders requested that it be returned to its rightful owners who were dispossessed by the past oppressive regimes. The traditional leaders welcomed the process being undertaken by government towards returning land and thus restoring the dignity of South Africans. The President emphasised during his reply that the issue of land will be handled responsibly and no smash and grabs will be allowed. The other issue raised was the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act (SPLUMA). There was an agreement that engagements will continue on SPLUMA in an effort to find an amicable solution and agreement.
The traditional leaders welcomed the progress made with a number of bills that are being processed. This Bills includes:
- Traditional Khoi-San Leadership Bill (TKLB)
- National Customary Initiation Bill |(CIB)
- Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill (TLGFB)
These bills are important as they will assist this sector to further grow and develop. President Ramaphosa indicated that some of these Bills will give traditional leaders authority to deal with challenges in their areas, like initiation deaths that have now gone out of control.
The House welcomed progress on the Khoi-San Leadership Bill which is a milestone and a step in the right direction towards the recognition of the Khoi-San leadership structures and thus restoring their dignity. Speakers expressed the hope that by the next annual opening of the House, Khoi-San people would be fully recognised and thus not just be invited as guests. The House also welcomed the President’s intention to establish a commission into their matters and committed to support all the processes.
The traditional leaders requested government’s support and assistance to deal with social ills that they are experiencing in their communities. These issues include drug abuse, poverty, access to health services, and unequal education, amongst others. The traditional leaders welcomed the announcement by the President that social grants will continue to be administered as they are important to reverse poverty in many communities.
On health matters, traditional leaders requested government’s support for programmes that they are implementing on the ground. These programmes are important to change the lives of ordinary South Africans. An example of these projects is the one that has already reached 2000 youth in the Free State on reproductive health. The information the youth are receiving will assist to save their lives and live healthy lives.
The traditional leaders made a commitment to support campaigns on key government programmes like HIV or Cancer. Through partnerships between government and communities, it would be possible to ensure that communities are assisted. Traditional leaders were encouraged not to sit back whilst communities were experiencing social challenges and the respect for self and others is getting eroded.
Traditional leaders echoed the call by President Ramaphosa that agriculture can become one of the catalysts for ensuring employment for youth in rural areas and ensuring food security. They agreed that TVET and Agricultural colleges were important for ensuring that the youth receive targeted training. Improving education will assist in eradicating the high levels of illiteracy in our communities. There was a call for an education summit that should include traditional leaders who can explain key challenges on the ground in their communities.
Government was encouraged to assist traditional communities to improve their economies, through tourism. Cultural tourism can be an important cash injection that municipalities require. By profiling many cultural sites and activities that are held annually to mark important cultural festivals, communities can attract tourists. There was a commitment that government through the Ministry of Tourism will work with communities to showcase cultures and heritage sites. Tourism is an important element in economic development and can be used to revive and bring development in various areas.
Government will continue to prioritise Local Economic Development (LED) and will work with all stakeholders to ensure the promotion of sustainable rural economies. This important area, LED was added last year (2017) as one of the pillars of the Back to Basics programme.
The President emphasised that the Mining charter would reviewed with the involvement of all stakeholders, and that traditional leaders should also play an important role in this process.
The President thanked all traditional leaders for a lively debate that was characterised by the sharing of wise council and wisdom. “When we work together we can improve the lives of the communities we serve”, said the President. Traditional leaders committed to be part of the movement of hope and rejuvenation, and said in one voice that they are ready to lend a hand – Send me / Thuma Mina.
CoGTA: Head of Communications
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