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Address by Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile at the Dialogue with the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Pretoria

Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Kgosi Thabo Milton Seatlholo, Rapulana!

Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Nkosi Langa Mavuso;

Their Majesties, Kings, and Queens Present;

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ms. Thembi Nkadimeng;

Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Premiers, and MECs Present;

Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;

The Presidents and Deputy Presidents of CONTRALESA and ROLESA;

Mr Cecil le Fleur, Chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council,
The President of SALGA, Alderman Stofile, and the leadership of SALGA here present;

Esteemed Traditional Leaders;

All partners of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders,

Good Morning,

It is a privilege to address the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders on this significant occasion, which marks the end of the sixth government administration and the celebration of exactly thirty years of democracy on the 27 of April. 

Programme Director, while some will want to make light of this and undermine the work that government alongside Traditional Leaders, Faith-Based Organisations and other stakeholders, has played for us to be where we are, as patriotic people of this country, we must never allow opportunistic elements to deny us the moment to celebrate this milestone. The story of democracy in South Africa is beautiful, and we must continue to write our history and preserve our indigenous knowledge systems for future generations.

This dialogue is a crucial opportunity for us to share ideas, understand each other, and achieve meaningful solutions while also reflecting on the journey we have travelled since 1994. Your wisdom, resilience, and dedication to preserving our rich cultural legacy and democratic government have moulded our journey towards unity, progress, and healing.

As President Cyril Ramaphosa stated at this year’s opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, "it is incumbent on us to consolidate these gains as we chart the course for a new, better future where there is shared prosperity, true freedom, and meaningful equality."

As an ANC-led administration, we remain committed, to leaving no one behind as we build a prosperous society. Our goal is to build a more equitable society where opportunities are not reserved for a certain race, gender, class, religion, or traditional group.

I believe that, while we have encountered obstacles along our path, significant progress has been made towards transforming the institution of traditional leadership and treating it with the respect it deserves.

As previously stated by the President, our Kings are now regarded as Kings rather than Paramount Chiefs, a name coined by the colonial and apartheid administrations to emphasise that in their minds, the only true Kings were found in Europe.

Furthermore, the establishment of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders serves as evidence of the government's dedication to recognising and valuing the viewpoints and contributions of our traditional leaders.

The legal recognition of traditional courts, their inclusion in local governance, and the protection of indigenous knowledge systems demonstrate governments respect for traditional authority and a growing understanding of their distinctive role in society.

The ANC government is dedicated to upholding the rights and dignity of Traditional and Khoi-San leaders while preserving cultural diversity and promoting prosperity, peace, and unity for all citizens. For this reason, we established the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to look into any issues affecting traditional leaders, including those from the Khoi-San community.

Despite the challenges this Inter-Ministerial Task Team still faces, working together with you as traditional leaders has resulted in notable progress as demonstrated in the presentations by different workstreams.

Esteemed Traditional Leaders, 

Government is committed to strengthening the Institution of Traditional Leadership because we value your role in South Africa's constitutional democracy and within our communities, particularly in light of the Rural Development Strategy. To achieve this goal, multiple pieces of legislation and programmes have been enacted to ensure that traditional leadership contributes significantly to societal progress and to develop long-term solutions.

As an institution located in rural areas, it is important that we collaborate to identify obstacles that are hampering community development, such as the killing of traditional leaders, especially in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal. We encourage Amakhosi and Izinduna to continue working closely with the government to address this challenge effectively.

As government, we strongly condemn these acts of violence and urge the community to serve as the government's eyes and ears by reporting those who conspire or have committed such crimes to the appropriate authorities. Our law enforcement agencies are also working hard to hold those responsible to account.

We also learned from different interactions and discussions, including the Xivijo held in Free State last year, that some of the challenges confronting traditional and Khoi-San leaders are similar across the provinces.

We agree with you that we must move faster in our efforts to develop rural areas, including through the InvestRural Master Plan, to which we are all committed. The InvestRural initiative enables rural communities to unlock their potential and improve their livelihoods. Investing in local economies and land ownership are still critical for rural communities' development.

We all understand that land tenure and administration have been contentious issues. We will continue to work hard to build and sustain rural communities by transferring land ownership from the state to its legitimate owners. The government has also undertaken to divest itself of the communal land it holds in trust for communities.

We are prioritising land access for rural development and economic transformation. We are in the process of finalising the Draft Communal Land Bill and Policy, with consultations underway to solicit input from various sectors, including traditional leaders. The documents will be processed through government structures and the Cabinet for public comments during the 2024/2025 financial year.

We are confident that the Draft Communal Land Rights Bill will facilitate the transfer of government-held communal land to communities. It will also allow for communal land registration and dispute resolution mechanisms.

The important thing is that we optimally utilise the land. If we till the land, we can fight hunger and poverty through small-scale farming or agricultural start-ups. Since agriculture is the dominant economic activity in most rural areas, the chosen tenure arrangements must empower occupants to use their land rights as the basis for prosperous and sustainable agricultural enterprises.

Esteemed Traditional Leaders,

We are confident in your leadership within your respective communities, and we are willing to collaborate with you to address the serious issues confronting our society today. We must collaborate to address substance abuse, crime, Gender-Based Violence, and Femicide.

We know that Gender-Based Violence has a negative impact on socio-economic conditions, particularly for women and girls. Therefore, ending this scourge is urgent and critical for our nation's development.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your leadership and contribution in dealing with Gender-Based Violence, as well as in promoting gender equality in general. You, as traditional leaders, must never allow anyone to act violently and abusively against their partners in the name of culture. Together, we must stand firm and say no to all forms of abuse and violence.

Another cause of concern in our communities is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and TB, particularly among adolescent girls and young women. As part of our prevention efforts, we must continue to communicate good and compelling messages to young people about delaying the commencement of sexual interactions as much as possible, and, when they do begin, having sexually safe relationships and living healthy lifestyles.

We must also intensify our efforts to address the pandemic of substance abuse in our communities. It is encouraging to note that this House is collaborating with the Central Drug Authority to support its work. I urge you, as this House, to encourage provinces and local houses to establish relationships with community organisations to fight the scourge of drugs.

In this regard, we congratulate Kgosi Seatlholo, Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, on his recent election as Interim Chairperson of the Southern Africa Network of Traditional Leaders in Drug Demand Reduction. As Government, we support the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders through Workstream 3 in establishing relations with traditional leaders and structures around the continent and in the region.

The government will continue to collaborate with traditional leaders to tackle rural issues, ensuring marginalised voices are heard and preserving the nation's cultural diversity for future generations.

We will also prioritise capacity-building programmes for traditional leaders in our partnership. We appreciate the institutions that offer training to traditional leaders in different areas. We are committed to expanding the reach of these capacity-building programmes so that more leaders can effectively contribute as agents for change in society.

As I conclude, allow me to take this opportunity to remind you that on May 29, we will, as a nation, hold the seventh democratic national and provincial election. In this context, traditional leaders should continue to encourage all eligible voters to participate in the elections. We urge traditional leaders to promote free and fair elections and ensure that all voters exercise their democratic right—a right that was hard fought for and must never be taken for granted.

Esteemed traditional leaders, we hope that today's dialogue will contribute towards the resolution of some of the issues you have raised that are integral to how you manage affairs as traditional leaders. I urge that we continue to engage not as adversaries but as partners in the leadership of our country and its people, with the sole purpose of uniting everyone, regardless of their background.

Ke a leboga, Ngiyabonga, Inkomu.

 Union Building