TLindaba Speeches

Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the Indigenous and Traditional Leaders Indaba

Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi  Maubane and all our traditional leaders,

Leaders of Political Parties

Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders,

President of Contralesa, Kgoshi Setlamorago Thobejane

Chairperson of the NKC, Mr Cecil Le Fleur

Chairperson of SALGA, Councillor Parks Tau,

Fellow South Africans,


Sanibonani, Dumelang, Thobela, Avuxeni, Ndimatsheloni, Molweni, Lotjhani!!

I take this opportunity to greet all of you on this important occasion of the inaugural Traditional Leaders Indaba.

This indaba is held during the year of our stalwart, the revolutionary, isiThwalandwe / Seaparankoe and freedom fighter, Mr. Oliver Reginald Tambo, who would have reached a century this year, had he lived.

The Indaba also occurs during a pertinent time of the year, as we mark Africa Month during May.

On Thursday, last week, we celebrated Africa Day.

Speaking at an Africa Day interview on Radio Freedom on 25 May 1980, our former President Tambo said:

“The black man in South Africa lives in a mini world where his highest political achievement under that system is participation (and perhaps being elected) in Bantu Community Councils elections in Bantu townships, or Bantustan elections in purely tribal settings, and in the world of Coloured Councils, Indian Councils and Chinese Community Councils,… all of them the creation of a supreme, superior and almighty whites only parliament.”

As a country, we have traversed a long road from this reality. Today we have a powerful government that is inclusive and representative of all sectors of our society, including traditional leadership.

Let us use this opportunity to ensure that the sacrifices of our leaders and people go towards building a better South Africa.

Our commitment to the liberation of our people, both social and economic, remains as strong as ever. Our traditional leaders have an important role to play in the transformation of our country to achieve total liberation.

It is therefore important that government keeps in close contact with traditional leadership to ensure that they participate in the socio-economic transformation programme of the country.

Esteemed traditional leaders of our people,

This Indaba occurs during the election year of all structures of traditional leadership.

It will set the tone for the next five years of the term of office of all structures of traditional leaders. We appreciate the work done by all those who were in office for the past five years, despite all the challenges.

This Indaba will consider issues that are core to the institution of traditional leadership, such as land redistribution.

The economic liberation of our people is fundamentally based on land redistribution and ownership and we cannot compromise on this.

I have advised traditional leaders that they must appoint a firm of Attorneys to handle the issues of land and they indicated that the National House was engaging the Black Lawyers Association to assist.

Equally, it is the duty of our people to lodge land claims, but only where they have proof, not the whole of South Africa and traditional leaders can be very helpful in this regard because their predecessors and forefathers fought land wars.

Without being guided by a legal expert, the land claims may not be adequately supported.

What is discouraging to our people is that over 90% of claims are currently settled through financial compensation, which does not help the process at all. It perpetuates the dispossession that we are 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.

We trust that the Indaba will come up with implementable solutions to the land question.

We also wish to underline that as government we reject and discourage any land grabs, as this will perpetuate disorder.

No unlawful occupation of land should be 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.

Esteemed delegates, this Indaba must also consider the wealth underneath our land, our people must benefit from the minerals extracted.

We cannot be one of Africa’s largest economies, yet our people remain poor, while our country is rich in minerals.

Any mining or other economic activities happening in the areas of traditional leadership must ensure that the community owns a certain percentage.

I am stressing this so that when investors approach community leaders and traditional leaders, it should be ensured that the community benefits economically.

This is already happening in some communities and lessons can be gleaned from those projects, for example in the North West.

Esteemed traditional leaders,

We cannot transform and develop our community if we are not united and have common values and traditional leaders must help us in instilling social cohesion and nation building.

It is important that we emphasize our value systems for our communities, informed by our rich customs and traditions.

Esteemed leaders

Our country has been engulfed by despicable violence against women and children. We urge traditional leaders to work with government in ensuring that this scourge is eradicated in our communities.

Family members and neighbours must not turn a blind eye to domestic violence and abuse of women and children. These incidents must be reported to the police and action must be taken against the abusers.

We also appeal to women to take all signs of abuse, be it emotional or physical seriously and report to the police.

They must not give excuses for the abuse as the matter will escalate even leading to death.

The attacks don’t occur in the homes only. There are cases of women having been attacked on their way to work or anywhere else. Women must enjoy the freedom of movement in the country and must not live in fear.

We appeal to our traditional leaders to work with the police to make our villages safer.

It is also of concern that violence and crime occurring in rural communities tends to be under-reported in the media. Every incident of crime against women and children must be prioritized.

The police have been instructed not to turn women away when they come to report violence.

That this Indaba takes place during the Africa Month, reminds us of the role of traditional leaders in nation building.

I urge the National House of Traditional Leaders to pick up where they left off with the establishment of the SADC House of Traditional Leaders and the Continental House of Traditional Leaders.

This could be the dream come true of our fore bearers. The cooperation of traditional leaders with their counter parts is critical to building a cohesive SADC region and ultimately the continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Government is aware that the institution of traditional leadership will not be able to successfully implement all the programmes it has planned to achieve without proper support.

I have mentioned earlier on that the institution has done commendable work with less resources partly because of the global economic situation as we know.

The incoming Traditional Councils and Houses of Traditional leaders must take from the resolutions of this indaba to develop their plan for the next five years.

The National House and the Department of Traditional Affairs must oversee the implementation of the resolutions of this Indaba.

Traditional leaders must be supported based on the plan submitted.

We have to find alternative ways of resourcing the institution. One mechanism may be for municipalities to budget and support the institution because traditional councils operate in a local space.

We should not create a duality of roles. Instead the two structures must cooperate and ensure that the community is developed accordingly.

The Department of Traditional Affairs must take the lead in ensuring that provinces and municipalities adequately support the institution.

There must be a baseline for support that will indicate what must be there in order for the traditional council and a house of traditional leaders must have in order to operate.

The baseline must be supported and accordingly funded in order for the structure to perform.

We cannot have structures of the community that are not performing due to lack of support.

However, the institution should understand that we operate in a fiscally constrained space, but we must take steps to ensure that at least this baseline is funded.

Programme Director,

One of the commissions of this Indaba will be considering the provisions of the Constitution with regard to the powers and functions of amaKhosi.

This matter was discussed adequately during the time of the Coalition of traditional leaders. We engaged on the matter at Cabinet level.

This matter has been raised not once, but a number of times by uMntwana wakwaPhindangene, Umntwana Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and my response has always been the same – that Cabinet did not accept our proposal.

I trust that you will reflect strongly on the question of whether or not traditional leaders should get directly involved in the development programmes of councils as part of their responsibilities.

This terrain may be cumbersome for our traditional leaders as it will make them operational and involved in the implementation of programmes while they serve better if they rise above government and any squabbles that come with service delivery issues.

I urge you to think more deeply about this matter before you make a decision. Let the Indaba debate the matter seriously and look at all pros and cons of taking the responsibilities of service delivery.

Any service delivery matters must be handled and receive the cooperation of both elected and traditional leaders.

We have to ensure that the working relationship between the two structures is sound and is one that shows communities that leadership is about cooperation and working together.

I urge the Indaba to debate further on the participation of traditional leaders or their representatives in the municipalities.

We must decide on the best model of cooperation for working together between the elected and hereditary leadership.

Honourable Leaders,

Government is on course with development and re-building the economy of the country. We can only succeed if we work together as a collective.

We speak about radical socio-economic transformation because of the view that in the past 23 years, the good work we have done has as of now has not led to the total transformation of the economy and a better life for all our people. A lot of progress must be made, but more needs to be done to bring about change in the lives of our people.

The support to small businesses and smallholder farmers and the need to revive and support our township and rural enterprises, is critical. These are matters that need to be discussed with the traditional leaders by municipalities and provincial authorities when the radical economic transformation programme is discussed and implemented.

This is important because we all have the responsibility to end the scourge of poverty, unemployment and other related challenges facing the community.

I am impressed with the approach you have taken as traditional leaders to discuss and agree on a variety of serious issues that needs robust debate.

It is now my honour and pleasure, to declare the Indaba of Indigenous and Traditional Leaders officially opened.

I thank you.