Back to top

Closing Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Indigenous and Traditional Leaders Indaba

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Maubane,
Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders,
All our traditional leaders,
Chairperson of SALGA, Councillor Parks Tau,
Leaders of political parties,
Distinguished guests,
Fellow compatriots,
Dumelang, Thobela, Sanibonani, Avuxeni, Ndimatsheloni, Molweni, Lotjhani, Goeie Môre!
It is an honour and pleasure to address the closing of the Indigenous and Traditional Leadership Indaba.
Since Monday, you have been deliberating on the role of traditional leadership in improving the lives of the communities you lead.
We thank you for continuing to act as partners for progress and development.
This Indaba has demonstrated that we cannot succeed without the involvement and commitment of our traditional leaders.
Our Constitution recognises that without the institution of traditional leadership, our South African community is incomplete.
Without your active participation, our nation will not overcome the scourges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
You are the guardians of our hard-won freedom.
You remain central to the deepening of democracy, public participation and effective governance.
As government, we are deeply invested in supporting and strengthening the institution of traditional leadership.
We are invested in restoring the pride and dignity of traditional authority so that our leaders can better lead the reconstruction and development of our nation.
Working with you, we have crafted a vision of traditional leadership that embraces transformation.
Leaders of our people,
Our Constitution envisages traditional leadership that plays a central role in social and economic development.
This is a vision which embraces the constitutional principles of democracy, equality and accountability.
It is a vision that sees the institution of traditional leadership contributing significantly to employment creation, social cohesion and nation building.
For generations, it has been the function of traditional leadership to facilitate economic development, protect communities and preserve the environment.
You mediated conflicts, administered restorative justice and defended the vulnerable.
As custodians of culture and as stores of ancestral wisdom, you have provided spiritual leadership.
Ultimately, you have been a force for integration, always embodying the unity of your people.
As government, we have renewed our efforts to improve the living conditions of millions of South Africans living in rural communities.
We want to do this working hand-in-hand with you to ensure sustainable development in an integrated manner for communities that you lead.
We know that working with you, we can better provide essential services like water, roads and electricity.
Working with you, we want to intensify and enhance our programme of building roads, installing infrastructure and delivering more clinics, schools and houses.
We want to work with you to combat the appalling hunger that still affects so many of our people.
There is no reason why someone living in a rural area should go hungry and be without a job.
People living in households which experience extreme hunger are unlikely to reach their human potential.
Children in these households often experience severe malnutrition which contributes to a high number of deaths among children under five.
Government is therefore focused, among other things, on growing the economic value of smallholder agriculture, which will bring many smallholder households out of poverty.
Some of the initiatives spearheaded by government require changing archaic farming practices, adopting new methods of looking after livestock and participating in programmes which build capacity and skills to enhance land use.
We want to work with you to improve the health of rural people.
We need to ensure that they are reached by our primary health interventions, including community health care workers.
In particular, we need to address their vulnerability to HIV and TB, by focusing both on prevention and ensuring access to treatment.
Our response to these epidemics needs to take account of the cultural practices and beliefs of our people.
Traditional leaders have a crucial role to play in promoting awareness, tackling prejudice and combating stigma.
There are areas where traditional leaders have taken the lead in encouraging men to be circumcised, even where it is not a common cultural practice, because it significantly reduces the chances of HIV transmission.
Such interventions have improved the health of our people and saved lives.
Honourable Leaders,
As traditional leaders you should agree on how we retain the best of our traditions, heritage and indigenous wisdom while seizing the opportunities of a rapidly changing world.
We must work together to infuse new traditions of opportunity, innovation and transformation.
We must empower our youth to take their place in the 21st century while holding fast to their best attributes of their past.
As we evolve, we must find the equilibrium between preservation and progress.
As we look at rural development strategies, as we look into the prospects of industrialisation, traditional leaders will play a greater role in changing the landscape of our economy.
The areas under your custodianship must be seen as sites for economic development.
These areas have the potential to be an oasis of an organic, radically inclusive and diversified modern economy.
For decades, the colonial authorities and the apartheid regime sought to drain our rural areas of their economic potential.
Now we have an opportunity to bring these regions of our country to life.
Some of our traditional leaders live in areas that are blessed with mineral resources.
Many live in places that possess rare scenic beauty, places that are naturally endowed and culturally appealing.
These are huge possibilities for tourism development and industrialisation without undermining the social fabric of communities.
Central to our programme of radical socio-economic transformation – which aims to fundamentally change the pace, scale, control and ownership of production in this country – we are investing significantly in the development of agriculture and agro-processing.
Through the establishment of agri-parks across the country, we are working to empower black smallholder farmers, providing them with training, resources, infrastructure and, most importantly, access to markets.
We see these agri-parks as catalysts for rural industrialisation.
This will ensure that more of the value of our agricultural produce is retained in rural areas, more jobs are retained and more skills are retained.
Our youth will see economic opportunities in rural areas.
That is why we are investing in developing the farming skills and capabilities of black youth.
They will no longer need to leave for the towns and the cities to find work.
The seeds for development are there.
Partner with local, provincial and national government to attract private investments to harness these assets.
Be at the forefront of efforts to integrate rural communities into the national and global economy.
The institution of traditional authority must define itself as a developmental authority.
We must together have a dedicated focus on developing the skills of rural youth.
Our national drive to promote early childhood development must extend into rural areas – no matter how challenging or difficult.
There must be good quality schools with universal access.
As several schools in deep rural areas have repeatedly demonstrated, location is not necessarily an obstacle to excellence.
If we succeed in creating more economic and educational opportunities, more young people will remain in traditional communities to contribute to growth and to strengthen the social fabric.
Through education, we can decisively break the cycle of poverty that has been handed down from generation to generation.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that talent doesn’t leave rural communities never to return.
If we today we lay the foundations of success in rural communities, we will reap the rewards of intergenerational patterns of development right where we live.
As a society, we will be able to reduce the social ills and contribute to social cohesion.
In all that we do, the communal character of our communities must be kept alive in fashioning a vision for our areas.
We must take our people into confidence and energise them.
When people see the future clearly and how it will ultimately benefit them, they are able to be partners in development.
They are able to realise that their stake in the future is greater than their stake in the present.
We look to you to be attuned to the concerns of our communities.
Because you live with and among our people, you are there when problems start in families and in communities.
We urge you to blow your horns before problems manifest themselves.
We urge you to be at the forefront of the struggle to end violence against women.
There is nothing in our culture, in our traditions, in our beliefs that permits the denigration, abuse, rape or murder of women.
There is nothing in our history, in our ancestry, in our communal identity that permits the abuse and exploitation of children.
We must be unequivocal that a nation that destroys its children, destroys its future and shames its ancestors.
My Leaders,
We look forward to reading resolutions of this Indaba.
We look forward to concrete, workable proposals and how our nation can support the role that you, our leaders, play in society.
Our Kings, Queens, and Chiefs led heroic battles against colonial oppression and land dispossession.
And today as we navigate our path to economic freedom and nation building, we again humble ourselves before you to play your part.
Our work is far from over.
Our people demand the restoration of their land, their wealth, their dignity.
The time is now to rebuild our nation.
I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency