DTA Deputy Minister Obed Bapela

Deputy Minister, Mr Obed Bapela, Address to the Eastern Cape Provincial House of Traditional Leaders

25 September 2017


Ministers of Religion

MEC for CoGTA, Mr Xasa

Your Majesties our Kings, and especially Queen Noloyiso (Ah Noloyiso),

MECs and Members of the Legislature,

Mayors of Buffalo and Councillors,

The Leadership of CONTRALESA,

Chairpersons of Local Houses of Traditional Leaders,

Members of the Provincial House,

Invited Guests,

Members of the Local Houses,

Your Royal Highnesses,

Business Delegation, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Government Officials,

Good evening.

It is my honour to join you tonight as we reach another milestone in strengthening our democracy and the institution of traditional leadership. This is furthermore a joyous occasion as the affirmation of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders occurs during the month of September when we celebrate our diverse cultures. The theme for this year’s Heritage Month is “The Year of OR Tambo: Celebrating Our Liberation Heritage.” It is thus fitting that as we commemorate a son who hails from the soil of the Eastern Cape, a province that has allowed OR to not only belong to them, but to the rest of the world, we also get ready to inaugurate a new generation of leaders who can follow in the footsteps of Comrade ‘OR.’

The Eastern Cape is the last but one province to reconstitute its Provincial House. All other Houses except Eastern Cape and Northern Cape have reconstituted. This is not a competition as to who will reconstitute first, but it is a matter of meeting the requirements of the law. The law required that we should have received the names of delegates to the National House of traditional Leaders on or before 3rd of August 2017.

Due to various challenges experienced by provinces in reconstituting their Houses, the National House will hopefully be reconstituted not later than mid-October 2017. This house will for the first time oversee local houses, which may still have some teething problems. We believe that members elected from their local houses to the provincial house are equal to the task that lies ahead.

Programme Director,

The Department after engagement with the National House of Traditional Leaders, convened an Indaba at Birchwood at the end of May 2017. The Indaba came up with a number of resolutions per key item and the conference declaration. We have noticed that we will not be able to implement some of the resolutions, without further engagement with the institution of traditional leadership. We will be calling another summit of a fairly representative proportion to further engage and come up with an implementation plan for some resolutions taken during the indaba. We are in the process of issuing invitations to the summit that will indicate the number of amaKhosi per province, so that all provinces are represented at the summit. We are furthermore being guided by the leadership of CONTRALESA on the invitation as the conference will discuss issues that require all to be adequately represented.

I believe that the provincial house will immediately call all executive committees of the local houses to a mini Indaba that will further look at the resolutions of the main indaba with the intentions of building them in the five year plan of this house. It will be strategic to have the resolutions of the Indaba built in the strategic plan of the House and in all plans of government (national, provincial and local) so that matters of traditional leaders receive centre stage. Most of the resolutions are developmental in nature, which says traditional leaders are not for themselves but for their communities.

The indaba concentrated on four critical matters:

  • Land ownership and Tenure Rights
    • Land Matters
    • Socio-Economic Development
  • Institutional Support and Budget
    • Budget for the Institution of traditional leadership (administration of all structures of traditional leadership)
    • Remunerative matters
    • Norms and standards for transformation
  • Social Cohesion and Nation Building
    • Role of traditional leadership in social cohesion and Nation building
    • What must be done to realize UNITY IN DIVERSITY
  • Constitutional and Legislative matters
    • Constitutional Amendments
    • Powers and functions of traditional leaders
    • Legislative provisions for the institution of traditional leadership
    • Representation in the NCOP

The indaba resolved all the matters highlighted above. We will urge the incoming house to obtain from the National House the adopted resolutions of the conference so that your preparation for indaba and your planning session is informed by the resolutions of the Indaba.


We appreciated the manner in which you conducted yourselves during the reconstitution of all the local houses. It became clear that traditional leaders understand democracy much more that those who think they know it. We have not heard of any mudslinging between traditional leaders, but a fair competition which was embraced by all. This is a clear indication of how mature our royal leaders are when it comes to elections. A lot of political parties can learn from your conduct during and after the election. We appreciate and wish to congratulate all chairpersons, deputy Chairpersons and members of all houses for being elected to represent the institution. It is not about holding a position but working to realize unity and development of all South Africans especially the communities living in the areas of amaKhosi. May the outcome of any contestation then and in the future, not be just about winning, but a realisation of the existence of different preferences which most likely underline the prevalence of diverse views and perspectives. The biggest challenge imposed on leadership will be the ability to embrace and tolerate different views, bring those views and their proponents on board, work closely, and forge a formidable unit that will ensure that, at the end, the people and their communities are the biggest victors. That courage will amply exemplify transformational and inclusive leadership that sends a clear message of unity to the people.

Support to the Leadership

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to ask all members of the Houses to support the leadership, give guidance and suggestions to the leadership of the House. There is no one born a chairperson of a House, but you learn as you occupy that position. We should all contribute to collectively lead and realise the objectives of the Houses and the entire institution. We should not blame one person when there are challenges, instead we must step forward to resolve them. Leadership is about owning up to challenges and apportioning successes to those behind the leadership.

Embrace all those who did not make it in the Houses and keep them informed about the progress on each and every strategic objective of the Houses. Those who are not in leadership should not try to micro manage the house, instead they must give space for leaders to lead. Much as this is the House of traditional leaders, it is composed of members of the House who are traditional leaders in their own right. There must be a (invisible) line between a member of the House and a traditional leader. A member of the House will accept deployment to attend to various issues and produce a report emanating from those deployments, without questioning the authority of the person deploying.

Team work is very important in leadership and in an organisation. A team will work to ensure that the captain is successful in all the missions undertaken. This house ought to work as such to ensure that the objective, programmes and projects of empowering and developing communities are successful.

Progress on Reconstitution of Structures of traditional leadership

Programme Director,

I have indicated earlier, that the reconstitution of the National House of Traditional Leaders will mark the final reconstitution of all the Houses. The National House is composed of delegates from provinces. Once all provinces have reconstituted, the National House will be constituted. As from tomorrow, we will be left with only the reconstitution of the Northern Cape House before the National House can be reconstituted.

Engagement with Kings

In most cases, Houses do not engage and brief our kings adequately on Bills, policies and any matter that is deemed important to brief our kings. The Department has developed an engagement model which seeks to brief the kings at least twice a year on a variety of issues starting from policies, legislation and matters that directly concern the kings. This model was developed on the basis of concerns received from the kings led by His Majesty King Zwelonke, Ah Zwelonke! In most cases, our kings are not briefed and this creates a serious gap in our communication. I therefore urge the Provincial House to regularly brief the kings in the Province. I urge the House to invite the National House to be part of the said briefing. This will go a long way in ensuring that our kings are kept abreast of developments and tapping from their wisdom to take the country and the institution forward.

Operation of the Houses

Programme Director,

We have noticed that in most cases, members who are deployed to the National House do not always espouse the position of the province on a matter. It is important that we must look at that approach with the intention to change, and to influence the National House into discussing issues that are from the provinces. We cannot have a structure that is composed of provincial delegates, yet there is no position from the structure that has sent those delegates. The delegates should regularly report to provinces on all their deliberations and seek a mandate accordingly.

Establishment of the forum of young leopards

We have learned that the system of the royal family to bring up a potential successor in a manner that is credible and respectable is slowly fading. We have recently addressed a number of behaviours that are not appreciated from traditional leaders. We have therefore decided to establish a forum of young leopards, as a platform where they will be able to share information and their frustrations as young traditional leaders. This forum will interface with veteran traditional leaders, as indicated by the President, like Inkosi Ngangomhlaba kaMatanzima, Inkosi Buthelezi and many others. We will try to ensure that traditional leaders installed at a tender age are mentored and coached to cultivate sets of attributes and abilities giving rise to a conduct consistent with royalty. The royal family structures set up to help the young traditional leader must be part of the support institution and infrastructure designed to mould, counsel and guide  the Inkosi to evolve into a leader we all can be proud of. Leadership is not about the position but the ability to lead and show the correct course of action in any situation. The young leopards will start hopefully in the next financial year. I will be consulting the chairpersons of Houses to get support for this forum and thereafter launch it.

It warms my heart to be part of this important evening to thank the House that was led by Inkosi Ngangomhlaba kaMatanzima. The house has performed very well and we must thank all members who contributed. I must further thank all traditional leaders and the government of Eastern Cape for ultimately establishing the local houses of traditional leaders. I know it was a marathon because of challenges like infrastructure and support staff. Today we have local houses of traditional leaders that will interact meaningfully with district municipalities.

May I also throw the new reality that we all find ourselves in, as part of the broader discussion, in the pot that we must grapple with now and in the immediate short to medium term horizons. South Africa has experienced a democratic dispensation for the past 23 years, and yet we continue to confront the triple challenges of poverty, idleness (unemployment, underemployment, unemployability, limited successful engagement in education and human capital development programs and/or entrepreneurial engagement) and inequality. Our government, through broad participation, has crafted a long-term strategic thrust in the name of the NDP, as a way of responding to this changing and engaging reality.

Corresponding to this, is the growing urbanisation that gradually is eroding the rural space and posing new challenges to the status of traditional leadership. More and more of our people are spending the greater part of their lives in the urban setting. This new phenomenon is also impacting on many other spheres of society, like churches, access to information and education, family interface, etc. The process of globalisation, with the rapidly revolutionising technological era, has created new techniques of engagement and relationships, and equally affecting the traditional rural setting.

We need to begin a conversation and debate that seeks to reposition traditional leadership and life within the ever changing and uncertain world that is unfolding before all of us. This phenomenon has had a wide and far-reaching impact globally, and as a result, royalty in many Western European countries and in certain African countries has sought to adapt and protect its role and place in society. We need to go beyond worrying about the privileges we want and ponder over the future of this system and sector, and adopt a long-term view of this space for the next 20 – 30 years. We need a vision that redefines traditional leadership within the evolving and rapidly changing South Africa and the world. But, I want to assure you that, as the government, we are your partners who will lead from the front and ensure that, through robust engagement, we generate a plausible consensus that preserve our heritage and elevate traditional leadership in a mutual coexistence with the republican thrust, and modernisation of our society and its communities. This vision must find alignment with the broader endeavours to implement the NDP and address the triple challenges alluded to, above. We would like to see the institution of traditional leadership playing a key role in three major areas, namely:

  • Preservation and enhancement of our cultural and traditional values and heritage, protecting our history and being in posterity;
  • Development of our communities, especially the optimum utilisation of large tracks of land and other resources that can bring about local economic development and render many of the traditional communities self-sufficient; and
  • Engaging in empowering initiatives that raises the level of human capital development, especially of the youth and women, thus revitalising our communities.

I would like to urge all of us to adjust our attitude towards the objective changes obtaining and evolving. We are in the process of transforming the department to be fully geared to drive the agenda of enhancing and preserving our rich heritage. To that end, we would like to bring about a department that listens, learns, engages and guides leadership towards best possible outcomes, and creating a government architecture that is a repository of institutional memory. We want to ensure that registration of progress in the traditional leadership sector is not dependent on me as the lead steward, but as part of government architecture, firmly entrenched as part of our strategic agenda. But equally, we expect you, our majesties, to embrace and appreciate change. Do not fear or resist change, but manoeuvre and redefine your role within this turbulence, without being swallowed.

Latest National initiatives

May I also take advantage of this platform to share our excitement of announcing that, the agenda of traditional leadership is now elevated to new heights of celebration. In years to come, starting from 2018, we would be in a position to recognise and award excellence in the traditional sector. It is important to recognise the good work that many of you do and acknowledge exceptional performance. To this end, there will be a function, to launch the “Royal Highness Awards”. Another national initiative, as part of the same event, will be the establishment of a Foundation that will help to raise the profile of traditional leadership locally and internationally. This Foundation will interact with other traditional leaders in Africa, Asia, Middle East, the Americas and in Europe, to be exposed on how their structures evolved and developed, as well as adjusted to changes in their countries. We hope to benefit immensely from the work of the Foundation, especially in policy and legislative shifts necessary to advance the traditional leadership sector. These two events will be held in Johannesburg on the 16th of November 2017 and invitations to this effect will soon come to your attention providing all the details of your attendance.

I should also indicate that the Khoisan and Traditional Leadership Bill has gone through all the critical processes and which will soon be debated at the National Assembly. We hope to finalise the process in March 2018, and thus, welcome our Khoisan compatriots into the National House to occupy their rightful place as sons and daughters of the South African soil.

In conclusion, I wish all of you a peaceful evening and successful elections tomorrow. Those who will be elected to positions of influence know that you are messengers of amaKhosi.

Thank you