Speeches

Address by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the Official Opening of The National House of Traditional Leaders

07 March 2013

Photo of: President Jacob Zuma
The Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Pontsho Maubane (Kgabo!)
Minister Masenyani Richard Baloyi (Mathebula!)
Deputy Minister Yunus Carrim (Ndaa VhoCarrim!)
Other Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Max Sisulu (Xhamela!)
The Chairperson of the NCOP, Honourable Mninwa Mahlangu (Mrungwa!)
The Deputy Chairperson of the NHTL, Kgosi Makgeru (Hlabirwa’a Bauba!)
Members of the House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL)
Heads of Chapter 9 institutions,
Mr Cecil Le Fleur, Chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council and your Councillors,
Nkosi Patekile Holomisa, President of CONTRALESA (Aah Dilizintaba!), and your Executive Committee,
Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses and all their majesties kings and queens present,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Lotshani!

Two weeks ago, I delivered the State of the Nation Address where we outlined progress made and the priorities and direction of our government for the new financial year. 

I committed government to forge ahead with building partnerships with all of the citizens of this country and all sectors, to make a better life for all our people a reality. 

We outlined progress made in the five government priority areas. These are education, health, the fight against crime and community safety, job creation as well as agriculture and land reform.

I am happy today to have this opportunity to open the National House of Traditional Leaders so that it can conduct its business for this financial year. 

The institution, status and role of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised by the Constitution of the Republic. 

The institution of traditional leadership has a role to play in supporting government in its programme of building a prosperous South Africa. 

We require your ongoing support in implementing programmes in our five priorities and the programme of action of government as a whole.

Amakhosi ayahlonishwa ezindaweni eziningi ezweni lakithi. Ningabaholi bethu, abaholi babantu bethu. Siyawuxhasa kakhulu umsebenzi owenziwa indlu yamakhosi kuzwelonke, kanye nasezifundazweni.

Chairperson,

The National and Provincial Houses were reconstituted last year. We trust that the new leadership has settled in and fully engaged in the business of the House.

When we meet traditional leaders we often look back at the heroic role played by amakhosi in our history. 

We recall our ancestors, from King Harry of the Cape San to the last armed resistance leader, Nkosi Bambatha in 1906, who put down the spear and gave way to the new form of resistance in the form of the congress movement.

The spear was then picked up through the formation of the African National Congress in 1912. 

Since then, the battle continues to reverse to legacy of apartheid colonialism which is manifesting itself through abject poverty, mass unemployment and gross social inequality. 

We are looking up to the modern day traditional leadership to work with us as we navigate through the new challenges facing our people today, especially the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. 

We are looking upon you, the descendants of the warriors and heroes of the wars against colonialism, to participate actively in building a new caring, united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

Esteemed leaders of our people,

Today I would like to discuss mainly three aspects in relation to the role of traditional leaders in promoting a united and prosperous nation. These are nation building, food security and the promotion of indigenous heritage.

I trust that as part of the work that the National House will be undertaking this year, you will not lose sight of the National Development Plan and its implications and opportunities for traditional affairs.

As you know we have adopted the Plan as the development blueprint for the next 20 years.  

The Plan informs us that 30 years from today, South Africa will be mostly urban, and that our rural areas will be abandoned as the youth migrate to the cities in search of greener pastures. 

Migration to the cities will leave the arable and fertile land lying fallow. 
Such a prospect will definitely and most certainly threaten South Africa’s food security. 

We are already witnesses to this phenomenon. Many fields lie untilled across the country. The NDP identifies agriculture as an economic activity that is still capable of pushing back the frontiers of poverty. 
 
This requires traditional leaders to work with government to promote farming to our youth and the rural population.

At the same time, we are conscious of the fact that years of land deprivation reinforced by land dispossession laws such as the Land Act of 1913 and later apartheid laws, have deprived generations of our people of the skills necessary to survive out of agriculture. 

People who had been proud farmers were now forced to work after being dispossessed of their land, livestock and equipment. Working on the farms was thus turned into a form of slavery.

The outcome of this state of affairs over generations is that our youth developed a grim view of agriculture. Those living in rural areas aspire to move out of the villages as soon as they can. We need to change the situation.

We need to make them appreciate the economic importance and centrality of agriculture. We must encourage them to study agricultural and food production sciences at school and universities. 

Our educational institutions at both secondary and tertiary level must respond to this challenge and channel resources adequately and appropriately. 

I therefore humbly request this august house to support government in making agriculture and farming look “cool” and attractive as a career choice to our youth.

Also key to this promotion of agriculture is access to land. I trust that the departments of Traditional Affairs and that of Rural Development and Land Reform will be discussing with the National House soon on land reform.

We have to work on the implementation of measures on land reform to allow communities who missed the 1998 land claims application deadlines to still apply for land that was taken away from them as part of the cruel colonial land dispossession. 

We are also exploring means of allowing those who were dispossessed before 1913 to also obtain justice, as mentioned in the State of the Nation Address. 

You will assist us in encouraging those who get their land back to use it and not resell it. Selling the land, at times back to the previous “owner”, defeats the purpose of changing land ownership patterns. 

The programme of reversing land dispossession must be undertaken in a manner that corrects the injustice while also promoting agricultural stability and food security. 

With the support of traditional leaders, the land reform programme will be successful in all respects.

Esteemed leaders of our people,

The second point I wish to discuss today is nation building.
 
We meet during a period when our country has experienced heightened incidents of violence against women and children, and other forms of violence.

These incidents remind us that we come from an immensely violent culture. We survived a cruel system of governance which was described as a crime against humanity by the United Nations. 

The apartheid system could only be sustained through violence, and violence became entrenched. When we correctly demanded freedom, equality, justice and human dignity, the response was violence, murder and mayhem.
For that reason, our struggle became deliberately a struggle to eliminate all forms of violence. It was a struggle to achieve a peaceful, caring, stable society. 

We cannot turn our backs on that legacy of dignified, principled struggle for peace, freedom, human rights and justice. That is why South Africans are outraged at the incidents of violence.

However, in expressing our disgust, we should not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the 52 million South Africans are peaceful, caring, law abiding citizens. 

They love their country. They do their best each day to make South Africa a better place. Therefore, when expressing outrage, we should be careful not to then paint all South Africans as violent and brutal. We should be careful not to rubbish our country. 

We should not and cannot lose faith in our own humanity and our collective ability to correct the wrongs that we see in our country.

We also dare not portray our beautiful country as an inherently violent place to live in. South Africa is a stable, peaceful country. Like all countries, there are elements that conduct themselves in a shocking and unacceptable manner.
 
And like all countries, we will search for solutions.

We have all been correctly angered by the rogue elements and criminals who molest women and children and commit other extreme forms of violence. 

Others burn and loot properties during what should be peaceful protests. 

The outrage expressed by our people at such recent violent incidents in particular is most welcome as it indicates that South Africans have not lost their sense of right and wrong. Using this positive trait, we must now work closely together to find solutions.

Traditional leaders are well placed to work with government and other sectors to rebuild the moral fibre of our society. 

We believe it is important to look at the root causes while also addressing the symptoms of the sickness. The police are dealing with the symptoms in relation to criminal activities. 

As far as general crime is concerned, the levels have decreased over the years.

However, the crimes against women and children remain high and of concern.

But the police continue to make inroads. During the last financial year, the Units secured over 363 life sentences, with a conviction rate of 73% for crimes against women above 18 years old and 70% for crimes against children under 18 years old.  

With the support of the community, most suspects in the high profile rape and domestic violence cases have been arrested. 

I have also directed the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to implement measures to nip violent protests in the bud. We are doing this to build a culture of responsibility, accountability, respect for authority and respect for one another. 

People have a right to protest, but there is no need to use violence to get the message across. 

We have at the same time instructed government to improve interaction with communities. 

Some people take to the streets because they feel nobody is listening to their grievances.

While the police will continue to arrest those who perpetrate such evil crimes, we also know that success in the fight against this scourge and against violence generally, depends on all of us and not only with the police.

We have identified the regeneration of the moral fibre and the strengthening of families and communities as a priority. 

Realising this challenge, plus the general weaknesses in the family structure in our society, the government has decided to fast-track the finalisation of the family policy.

We have produced a White Paper on Families through the Department of Social Development, building on the Green Paper that was released for discussion last year. 

We believe that the family is the foundation of society.  Our goal is to promote cohesive families, households and communities in South Africa, where violence, deviance and social decay would be non-existent. 

This is the foundation of a more caring, united and more prosperous South Africa. 

We are aware of the diverse nature of families and households in our country. We have single parent households, granny-headed households, female-headed households, child-headed households and others. 

The period of apartheid colonialism brought immense pressure to bear on the African family in particular.

We have gone through a period of the migrant labour system and rapid urbanisation leading to the split in families with breadwinners moving to the cities. 
 
This put pressure on families leading to children growing up with one or neither of the parents. Sadly this continues to this day in some families, where parents can be called economic migrants.

The HIV and AIDS pandemic and the internecine violence of the 80s and 90s also contributed to the breakdown in family life.

The triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment on their own wreak havoc on families and households.

Inequality in income distribution is also large and persistent. 

Inequality according to race also remains rampant. Figures from Census 2011 confirm this stark inequality, and revealed that white households earn six times more than African households. 

The average annual African household income is at R60 613 and the one of the white households is at R365 164. Close to 1.9 million African households reported no income at all. 

These are the socio-economic conditions we have to contend with, as we build united, cohesive, caring and stable families and communities. The situation does not make our task easy.

What is important in building new and caring communities, is that everyone should play their part. 

We have seen shocking cases of parents who do not know where their children are at any given time, even at night. That is unacceptable. Parents must take responsibility for their children and children under their care. They cannot delegate this responsibility to the police or to government. 

Beyond households and families, working together we must promote a culture of accountability as all sectors and leaders of society, including traditional leaders.

We all have a responsibility to socialise the youth to be caring, responsible and upright citizens.

They must know the values and ethos in our Constitution which pronounces against all forms of discrimination and violence. 

Promoting this accountability means that communities must be involved in the affairs of the schools in their jurisdictions. They must motivate the youth to go to school and support the teachers. No child must roam the streets during school hours and parents just look away. 

The existence of taverns near the schools and the fact that owners allow school children to patronise these areas indicates the level of decay in our society. The abuse of alcohol, drugs and other substances is a contributory factor in some of the crimes that are committed. 

These matters may look small and insignificant but on a larger scale, they take us to the problems we face currently, of wanton lawlessness.

More importantly, I wish to highlight the role of men in building stronger families. 

South Africa has a serious challenge of absent living fathers in many households, especially African households.  
 
The White Paper on Families states that absent living fathers is a common and increasing phenomenon affecting families in our country. 

The proportion of fathers who are absent but living increased from 41.6 percent to 47.4 percent between 1996 and 2010. 

African children have the lowest proportion of present fathers at 31.1 percent, while Indian children have the highest at 83.0 percent, with White children following closely behind at 80.8 percent. For Coloured children the proportion is 53 percent. 

It is noted that poverty, high rates of unemployment and financial constraints may contribute to large numbers of fathers failing to take responsibility for their children. 

However this should not be an excuse. Nothing stops a father from loving and caring for his children, even if he is poor.

It is well known that the presence of a father has a positive effect in a child’s life chances; academic performance; and social, emotional wellbeing. 

We salute all the mothers who raise children alone, under difficult circumstances. 

Chairperson and compatriots,

We also have a responsibility to strengthen inter-generational solidarity and to improve relations between children, parents and grandparents. 

The older generation in particular needs support. The horror of the sexual molestation of senior citizens, some who are over 80 years of age has exposed the worst forms of moral decay in our society.

Our White Paper promotes inter-generational solidarity. This can include better caring for the aged, and sharing of wealth, skills and knowledge between generations.

The nation building project requires all parties and stakeholders to play a role. 

We urge this House to help us promote a culture of respecting one another and of respect for authority and adherence to values that are enshrined in the Constitution. 

Members of this House are aware that simple respect for one another, and the respect traditionally accorded to adults in society by those younger than them is becoming a scarce commodity.

We cringe when we hear how some young people address older persons these days in discussions or debates. It is a symptom of the erosion of ubuntu and fundamental values.

The recent shocking incidents should shock us into positive action, by making us focus on what can bind us as the South African nation.

We must identify how we can support families and households in distress, strengthen our communities and take forward the mission of building a caring, united and prosperous society.

Kgosi Maubane and the leadership of the House,

Your programme on cultural tourism has indeed attracted our attention.

You seek to unearth the ancient shrines and catacombs of our ancestors hidden in caves. 

These graves are in need of preservation to boost domestic tourism as people are eager to see where epic resistance battles were fought. 

Our country will benefit from learning how our ancestors worshipped. 

They want to trace their footprints as they traversed the continent, going to and from, south to north and back as free nomadic hunter gatherers and herder communities at peace with their environment. 
 
We are waiting eagerly for the folklore to be translated into real stories and the indigenous knowledge to be revealed and integrated into the mainstream scientific knowledge. 

The bones of our ancestors that have been found in some parts of the country need to be given life, flesh and a living spirit. They need to be turned into a site for living heritage and cultural tourism – a monument that all of us would want to visit as domestic tourists who are inquisitive about our past in order to navigate the future. 

Out of such initiatives across the country, we will create jobs for tour guides, translators, entrepreneurs, traders and other trades as tourism has a way of unleashing creativity amongst the hosts, and of banishing poverty in the process. 

Similarly, the debilitated state of some of our declared heritage sites, particularly those in the rural areas is a cause for concern as some of them have been desecrated and vandalised. 

I have asked the Department of Traditional Affairs to collaborate with the South African Heritage Resources Agency to attend to their rehabilitation. 

In the same vein, we call upon communities to act as guardians of these centres as they indeed are about who we are. People who desecrate their heritage and sacred sites are doomed.  

The initiatives of the departments of Traditional affairs and Tourism will make cultural tourism a new weapon against rural poverty, unemployment and deprivation.

Chairperson and honourable members of this House,

I am pleased that the Khoi and San leadership under the National Khoi-San Council are with us in this chamber today. 

We are aware that the legislation meant to integrate their structures into the mainstream of traditional leadership institutions has taken longer than it was anticipated. 

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate government’s commitment to redressing this apartheid legacy, that is, their exclusion from traditional leadership institutions.

Compatriots,

Our country has great potential and can be anything we want it to be. It is upon this cadre of leadership gathered here to make of our country the best it can be, a winning nation.

I urge you to join our nation building campaign. Let us do everything possible to build more cohesive communities. 

Traditional leaders, as the leaders of our people, are well-placed to assist us in this campaign of reversing moral degeneration and building societies where there is respect for human life, human dignity and respect for every person regardless of their station in life.

I wish you well in 2013.

I thank you!

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