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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Annual Opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Parliament, Cape Town


The Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Ikosi Mahlangu, Ndzundza!
Your Majesties, Kings and Queens,
Chairperson of the NCOP, Ms Thandi Modise,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete,
Our friends from SADC countries,
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Zweli Mkhize, and other Ministers here present,
Premiers,
Deputy Ministers Obed Bapela and Andries Nel and other Deputy Ministers present,
Members of the Portfolio and Select Committees,
Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosikazi Mhlauli, Ahh Nosandi!
MECs present,
Former Chairpersons of the National House, Kgosi Suping and Kgosi Maubane,
Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders and all traditional leaders present,
Chairperson of the IEC, Commissioner Glen Mashinini,
President of Contralesa, Kgoshi M Mokoena,
Chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council, Mr Cecil Le Fleur,
Leaders of Political Parties,
Directors-General and HoDs,
Delegates,    
Fellow South Africans,

It is a great honour to once again have an opportunity to address the annual opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

The institution of traditional leadership in South Africa stretches into antiquity, representing an unbreakable bond between our people’s past and their present.

It is a living reminder of who we are and where we come from, of the traditions that sustain us and the values that guide us.

Traditional leadership, however, not only represents a link to our past; it is also an essential part of our future.

Our Constitution, which brought to an end decades of apartheid and centuries of colonial occupation and humiliation, recognises the institution, status and role of traditional leadership in a democratic society.

It envisages traditional leadership as an integral part of a South African nation that is united in its diversity.

It sees traditional leadership as an instrument of development and progress, dedicated to improving the lives of the people of this country.

In the State of the Nation Address delivered on 7 February, we identified five tasks that will underpin everything we do this year.

These are tasks in which traditional leaders have a critical role to play, and in which – individually and through the various Houses of Traditional Leaders – they are already active.

Our first task is to accelerate inclusive economic growth and create jobs.

The most direct way out of poverty for our people is through employment and other productive economic activity, such as small and medium business ownership and exploiting our natural resources.

It is clear that we cannot create employment without a growing economy and far greater levels of investment.

It was with the clear intention of increasing levels of investment in mind that we embarked on an ambitious investment drive last year to raise R1.2 trillion in new investment over five years.

Following the success of the inaugural South Africa Investment Conference in October last year, we are preparing to host another one later this year.

In preparation for that Conference, we will focus our efforts on those industries and those investors that will add the greatest value to our economy.

Among the areas where we want to see greater focus is on investment in the rural economy, particularly in agriculture and agro-processing, mining, tourism and infrastructure.

While investment is often drawn towards the more developed urban centres, there is great unrealised potential in rural areas.

We are working with several investors, both local and international, to identify and explore opportunities in rural areas.

It is for this reason, that in designating special economic zones, we have sought to include areas that are outside the main urban centres, such as the Maluti a Phofung and Musina-Makhado SEZs.

I am sure that you are aware that rural economic development features prominently in the economic stimulus and recovery plan which we announced in September last year.

In response to the technical recession in the first half of 2018, we directed greater public spending towards activity that would stimulate growth and job creation.

Since then, we have made progress in revitalising industrial parks in townships and rural areas and have allocated funding to establish a township and rural entrepreneurship fund.

The stimulus and recovery plan identified agriculture as a key driver of growth and employment.

Funds were therefore reprioritised towards a package of support measures for black commercial farmers to increase their entry into food value chains through access to infrastructure like abattoirs and feedlots.

A significant portion of the funding will go towards export-oriented crops that are highly labour intensive.

Government has finalised 30 year leases with nearly 900 farmers to enable them to mobilise funding for agricultural development.

These measures are part of the broader effort to unleash an agricultural revolution in South Africa. The epicentre of this revolution will be in the rural areas of our country.

We are committed to work with traditional leaders to significantly expand the amount of arable land available for agricultural production, both for food security and to create job opportunities.

Since we last addressed this issue in the National House of Traditional Leaders, we are encouraged by the fact that more traditional leaders have identified land that can be designated for agricultural production.

There are several traditional leaders who have put themselves forward to lead the agricultural revolution we envisage.

We welcome the work done by the Chairperson of the National House, Ikosi Mahlangu, Ndzundza, who has travelled to all our provinces to mobilise traditional leaders to support the agricultural revolution.

Traditional leaders were among the many stakeholders that participated in the work of the Constitutional Review Committee on the issue of the expropriation of land without compensation.

Their contribution enriched the debate and provided valuable perspectives that helped to inform the report of the Committee that has now been submitted to the National Assembly.

The National House, together with Provincial Houses, have been part of the stakeholders engaged by the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform.

We consider further engagement with the Advisory Panel necessary for the development of a comprehensive programme of accelerated land reform that gives effect to the Freedom Charter’s injunction that the land shall be shared among those who work it.

The Advisory Panel is assisting the work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform, which is chaired and led by the Deputy President.

Among the range of issues that this IMC needs to deal with are concerns about the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, or SPLUMA.

In anticipation of a discussion within the IMC, there may be some value in the National House of Traditional Leaders discussing this matter with the ministers of Rural Development and Land Reform and of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

We recognise the concerns that have been raised by traditional leaders about Communal Property Associations as instruments to hold and manage land in areas that fall under traditional authorities.

We accept the broad approach that land returned to communities in such areas be held in custodianship by traditional councils on behalf of the people, this should however be balanced against the Constitutional right of individuals.

We are determined that real progress should be made in the finalisation of land claims and in the restitution of land to communities.

Last year, I had the privilege to witness the return of land to the Mkhwanazi community in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is an example of what can be achieved when all government departments involved work closely with traditional authorities, communities and other stakeholders to remove obstacles to implementation.

It could provide a model for how we can use land reform to reverse the historical economic deprivation of communities by creating employment opportunities and developing infrastructure.

An integral part of this project is the provision of post settlement support, which enables beneficiaries to derive real benefit from the land.

This is an area in which the support of traditional leaders is most crucial.

Your Majesties and Chairperson of the House,

Another industry which has great potential to uplift the standard of living of people in rural areas is mining.

Since the earliest days of mining in South Africa, this industry has done great harm to our rural areas.

The need for cheap labour on the mines hastened the dispossession of the land of the African people and reduced many of our traditional areas to labour sending sites.

Mines also caused much social and environmental damage in the areas they were located.

While much has changed since the advent of democracy, there is still much to do to ensure that mining brings real and lasting benefits to rural communities.

Traditional leaders are well-placed to ensure that the new Mining Charter is effectively implemented in their respective areas.

There is a commitment from all the relevant government departments – many of which are represented here today – to work closely with traditional leaders to ensure that mining, firstly, does no damage, and, secondly, contributes more directly to social and economic development.

Through mining we must create a woman-centered economic empowerment model that advances the economic status of women.

Issues around mining licences, environmental impact assessments, water use licences, surface lease agreements, social and labour plans and transformation must be enforced to the benefit of the communities in which mining operations take place.

We salute those traditional leaders who are calling for investment in their respective rural areas through targeted investment opportunities in agriculture, oceans economy, infrastructure and settlements.

During the State of the Nation Address we announced our plan to double the number of tourists visiting South Africa by 2030.

This is an industry that has great potential for job creation and enterprise development, both directly and indirectly through food, construction, transport, retail, and the creative and cultural industries.

For international tourists, rural South Africa presents abundant attractions that cannot be matched anywhere else in the world.

As we work to make it easier for international visitors to travel to South Africa, we will work more closely with traditional leaders, rural communities and municipalities on tourism destination planning.

This means ensuring that we develop sites of great tourism potential and are well-equipped to welcome visitors.

We should pay particular attention to heritage sites that are in areas that are under the control of traditional leaders, as these have great potential for tourism.

The departments of Arts and Culture and Tourism stand ready to work with traditional authorities to have these sites identified and brought to economic life.

We agree that tourism projects in rural communities should form part of the investment books that we are developing to present to potential investors.

In addition to its enterprise development and transformation programme, the Department of Tourism is looking at funding opportunities for cultural tourism.

The second task that we identified in the State of the Nation Address is to improve the education system and develop the skills that we need now and into the future.

This is as much a priority for people living in areas under traditional authorities as it is for the rest of the country.

Education is the key to development and prosperity, and it is essential that no child in the country is left behind.

We are looking to traditional leaders to assist in the huge task of achieving universal enrolment in early childhood development, which is particularly challenging in rural areas.

We need to work together to find innovative ways to overcome problems of distance and a lack of infrastructure and suitably-qualified personnel.

As we work to improve the quality of schooling across the country, we are paying particular attention to the needs of rural schools.

One of the areas where rural schools experience the greatest deficit is in basic infrastructure.

Rural schools are benefiting in particular from the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative – or ASIDI – and from the SAFE initiative, which is working to replace pit toilets in nearly 4,000 schools with safe and age appropriate sanitation facilities.

To ensure that learners in rural areas are not left behind by the digital revolution, the first phase of our programme to provide digitised text books and work books on tablets will target multigrade, multiphase, farm and selected rural schools from 2020.

One of the tasks we share is to ensure that young people living in rural areas receive both the education and skills they need where they live and that they find economic opportunities in rural areas.

While we improve the quality and accessibility of schooling in rural areas, we are also investing resources and effort into developing TVET colleges into sites of technical and vocational training excellence.

Because TVET colleges have a greater reach into rural areas than universities, they offer far more opportunities for skills development for rural youth.

We are also working to ensure that programmes like the Youth Employment Service promote work experience opportunities outside of the major urban centres.

We need to work together to promote access to employment and economic opportunities for people with disabilities in areas under traditional leadership.

The third task we identified in the State of the Nation Address, was to improve the conditions of life for all South Africans, especially the poor

One of the most important mechanisms to address rural poverty in recent years has been the provision of social security grants, and we commend the Department of Social Development and their partners for continuing to provide this essential social service to millions.

The processes we have embarked upon through Nedlac to develop a comprehensive social security system will build on the base that has been built over many years.

Another area where we have made progress is in improving access to rural health facilities and especially to HIV and TB treatment.

We applaud the role that traditional leaders have played in promoting awareness about HIV and TB and encouraging people to get tested and to seek treatment.

As we move to initiate 2 million more people on antiretrovirals, it is critical that traditional leaders join hands with us to  mobilise rural people to access the services and to remain in treatment to prolong their lives and also to reduce the chances of transmitting HIV.

We have embarked on a broad consultative process to significantly improve the quality of care at public health facilities – many of which are in crisis – as we put in place the pillars of a National Health Insurance.

We ask you to support the efforts to improve health facilities in rural areas and encourage communities to demand improved care.

The NHI aims to ensure all South Africans have access to quality health care.

We also applaud the role that traditional leaders have been playing in confronting gender based violence.

The National House is a critical partner to government on issues of gender based violence, femicide, violence perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ community, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in society.

To end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide requires that we collectively conduct a public education campaign that confronts the persistence of patriarchal values and practices.

We need to work closely to develop interventions that will promote gender equality.

We should work to ensure women’s equitable representation in decision-making bodies in traditional communities and ensure that women are thoroughly consulted in the making of laws for customary communities.

We were particularly pleased that a delegation of traditional leaders – led by the Deputy Chairperson of the House, Nkosikazi Mhlauli, Ahh Nosandi! – attended the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide held in November last year.

We are encouraged by the capacity building workshops that the National House will be organising this year through its Gender and Social Development Committees, supported by the Department of Social Development

We look to traditional leaders to work with government and communities to find solutions to the needless death of young males during initiation schools.

This ancient rite of passage should never be allowed to become synonymous with death and serious injury.

We are happy with the progress on the Customary Initiation Bill and look forward to the finalisation of all the Parliamentary processes so that the Bill can be passed into law.

It is anticipated that once the bill is passed into law, it will assist greatly in bringing to an end the deaths of initiates.

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has informed me that in December and January he held meetings with Kings and other traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape to explore ways of addressing initiation deaths while the Customary Initiation Bill is still being processed.

I welcome these efforts and encourage traditional leaders to join hands with Government as we try to bring these deaths to an end.

The fourth task we identified in the State of the Nation Address was to step up the fight against corruption and state capture.

The evidence that has emerged in recent months about the nature and extent of corruption must be a cause of great concern to all South Africans.

We have heard of extensive networks of corruption that have diminished public institutions and stolen funds meant for the development of our country, funds destined for the poor and vulnerable.

Our priority must be to uncover all of these networks and expose their activities, bring those responsible to book, recover all stolen funds and take decisive measures to ensure this never happens again.

This means that we need to strengthen democratic institutions, establish suitable checks and balances, and increase transparency and accountability throughout society.

Traditional leaders must be an essential part of this effort.

Not only must traditional authorities themselves be above reproach, but they have an important role to play in ensuring that local government structures in particular are free from corruption and patronage.

As we step up the fight against corruption, as we restore the integrity of our institutions, it is essential that we restore the moral fabric of our society.

We look to traditional leaders to be at the forefront of the effort to inculcate a sense of moral responsibility, cohesion and accountability across society.

They should work to ensure that all leaders and people in positions of authority are held to the highest standards of integrity.

The fifth task we identified in the State of the Nation Address is to strengthen the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.

This means that there needs to be effective coordination across all spheres, departments and institutions.

It means closer cooperation between traditional authorities and local government structures in implementing integrated development plans.

It requires an alignment of effort and resources that extends to the provincial and national spheres.

If we are to adequately meet the needs of our people we need to address the issue that has long been outstanding about the powers and functions of traditional leaders.

The Department of Traditional Affairs has also established a task team together with traditional leaders, led by Nkosi Nonkonyana, to make proposals on the powers and functions of traditional leaders and any amendments to legislation.

Following our engagement last year, the Department of Traditional Affairs, working together with the National House of Traditional Leaders, appointed a constitutional law research specialist to do further research on the matter.

This research requires a study of all relevant legislation and an international comparison on how other countries have approached this issue.

This process should address the issues raised by Prince Buthelezi during the debate on the State of the Nation Address last week around a legal framework for cooperation between government and traditional leaders and section 81 of the Municipal Structures Act.

We look forward to the outcomes of this work, which greatly assist in reaching agreement and finality on an issue that is important not only for traditional leaders and traditional communities, but for all South Africans.

We welcome the progress that has been made in Parliament with the passage of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill, which has been placed on the order paper of the National Assembly.

This is a historic piece of legislation, which will, for the first time, give statutory recognition to the Khoi-San.

This is a development that is long overdue and is an essential step in restoring the dignity and recognising the traditions and cultures of one of South Africa’s indigenous groups.

The Traditional Courts Bill is before the National Assembly committee, and we are hopeful that it will be finalised soon.

We understand that there is some consensus emerging on the concerns traditional leaders had with some of the clauses contained in the Bill.

We are giving attention to the issues that have been raised in the past by traditional leaders around remuneration and the provision of resources.

Members may be aware of the task team that has been set up with officials from the Department of Traditional Affairs, the National House, the Independent Commission on the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers and the Presidency to consider matters relating to remuneration.

Consultation is currently taking place on a draft handbook that will assist in standardising the provision of administrative and related resources to traditional leaders across provinces.

As we attend to this issue, we are guided by the precepts of our democratic Constitution, by the needs and interests of the South African people and by the essential role that traditional leadership plays in building a cohesive society, taking into account the constraints of the fiscus.

We welcome the progress that is being made in the implementation of the Programme of Action on Traditional Affairs Matters, which was one of the most important outcomes of the Traditional Leadership Indaba held in 2017.

A number of committees and task teams have been established to conduct research, draft proposals and, where appropriate, to coordinate implementation.

Among issues that are being dealt with by the task teams is to ascertain the amount of land under the jurisdictional areas of traditional leaders, explore the establishment of a Land Commission, convene a Land Summit for traditional leaders, and advance an agrarian revolution.

In just under 3 months time, on 8 May, South Africans will go to the polls in national and provincial elections.

We urge traditional leaders to continue to encourage all eligible voters to register and participate in these elections.

We call on traditional leaders to actively promote free and fair campaigning, and to ensure that all voters are able to exercise their democratic right.

Allow me to conclude by thanking the leadership of the National House of Traditional Leaders for the manner we have worked together and the exemplary leadership you continue to provide to society.

As government, we appreciate the strong working relationship we have developed to address those issues that most affect our people.

The institution of traditional leadership is an integral part of our nation’s past, its present and its future.

It continues to be a beacon of hope for millions and a powerful instrument to assist in transforming the lives of people in rural areas for better.

Let us work together to ensure that all our people are able to equally benefit from the achievements of democracy and the promise of freedom that our Consitution guarantees.

I thank you.