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Opening Address by President Jacob Zuma to the Indaba of Indigenous and Traditional Leaders Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Boksburg

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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 you all on this important occasion of the inaugural Indaba of Indigenous and Traditional Leaders.

You have gathered as traditional leaders to discuss critical issues that will contribute to moving the country forward.
 
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 Africa Month.  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 government that is inclusive and representative of all sectors of our society.

The institution of traditional leadership is now enshrined in the Constitution, and is one of the key achievements of our multicultural society and democracy.

In this regard, the democratic South Africa recognizes the important place of our traditional leaders in the lives of many of our communities.

Chairperson and delegates,

This Indaba takes place 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 contribution of all those who were in office for the past five years.

The Indaba will consider critical issues affecting our people and our country, taking forward the work that has been done in the past five years, and looking ahead to the future.

As traditional leaders we know that the economic wellbeing of our people is important to you. The challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality continues to afflict us.

The global economy remains stagnant and our own country faces the problem of slow growth.

We face the challenge of slow economic transformation. Regardless of progress made in the past few years, black people are still left behind with regards to the ownership and control of the economy.

It is in this vein that we speak about radical socio-economic transformation. Amongst projects that we have placed on the table is the enhanced support to small businesses and smallholder farmers. Government also wants to see a revival of township and rural enterprises and more support will be provided to the two sectors.

Government is keen to engage traditional leaders on the radical socio-economic programme and its implementation in rural areas in particular.

You will also discuss economic matters that are close 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 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.

Traditional leaders can be very helpful in this regard because their predecessors and forefathers fought land wars.

What is discouraging is that over 90% of claims are currently settled through financial compensation. This practice perpetuates the dispossession that we are trying to solve. We urge those who obtain land to utilise it and not resell it.

Let me also take this opportunity to emphasise that government we rejects land grabs or the unlawful occupation of land.

The land question must be resolved within the ambit of the Constitution and the law. The governing party, the ANC will discuss this critical matter at the coming policy conference next month.

Esteemed delegates, we trust that this Indaba will also consider the wealth underneath our land. Our people must benefit from the minerals extracted from the belly of the earth in their country.

We cannot be one of Africa’s largest economies, yet our people remain poor, while our country is rich in minerals. Some communities already benefit from being enriched with minerals. Lessons can be gleaned from those projects, for example in the North West.

Esteemed delegates,

I believe that 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 at that time, a few years ago. 

Without pre-empting the discussions, I also trust that the Indaba 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 any squabbles that come with service delivery issues.

The best model of cooperation or working together between the elected and hereditary leadership must be found, and I trust this Indaba will deliberate and emerge with solutions in this regard.

Esteemed delegates,

This Indaba takes place during Africa Month, which reminds us of the role of traditional leaders in strengthening relations with the continent.

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.

The cooperation of our traditional leaders with their counterparts is critical to building a cohesive SADC region and ultimately the continent.

Compatriots

Traditional leaders must help us in instilling unity, social cohesion and nation building. It is also important that we emphasize our value systems which are informed by our rich customs and traditions, such as Ubuntu.

Our country has been engulfed by horrific violence against women and children, which goes against Ubuntu and the respect for human life, dignity and human rights.

Government has declared all crimes against women and children as priority crimes. Women and children have a right to freedom of movement and security in the country and must not live in fear.

We appeal to our traditional leaders to prioritise the fight against crimes against women and children, and crime in general and to work with communities and the police to make our communities safer.

Another matter that our traditional leaders need to grapple with further is that of the serious problem of racism which still exists in our country.

We have since 1994 worked hard to build a non-racial society, and this programme continues. We want to see unity, respect and tolerance amongst all our people, black and white.

All South Africans must be treated with dignity and respect, be they farm workers, factory workers, domestic workers or professionals. Nobody should be subjected to the dehumanization of racism.

Let us expose racism and promote awareness of behavior that constitutes racism, especially in rural areas where there is less media attention which may result in people suffering in silence.

In this fight against racism, government, through the Department of Justice is finalising the National Action Plan against Racism and Related Intolerances.
 
This Plan will give further clarity and guidance to government and to the broader South African society on the fight against racism and related intolerances.
 
We have also published the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill which will criminalise several forms of discrimination including racism.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

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

The incoming Traditional Councils and Houses of Traditional leaders will use the resolutions of this Indaba to develop their plan for the next five years.

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

The Department of Traditional Affairs will work with provinces and municipalities with regards to finding support for the institution, within the constrained funding environment.

Chairperson and Esteemed delegates,

We are pleased with the approach you have taken as traditional leaders to discuss a variety of serious issues.

This inaugural Indaba is an important development and will go a long way towards outlining the programme of action for the coming term of office.

We wish you successful and fruitful deliberations.

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

I thank you.