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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Parliament, Cape Town

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Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Kgosi Milton Seatlholo, Rapulana,
Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Inkosi Mavuso Langa, Ah! Zwelidumile,
Your Majesties, Kings and Queens,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula,
President of the Pan African Parliament, The Right Honourable Mambo Fortune Charumbira,
Delegations from Botswana and Lesotho,
Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoisan Leaders,
Leaders of political parties,
President of Contralesa, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena,
Chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council, Mr Cecil le Fleur,
Directors-General and officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am humbled to address the opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders.
As this is the first time we meet since the reconstitution of this House in October 2022, allow me to begin by congratulating all those who have assumed positions of leadership.
We particularly congratulate the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.
We pay tribute and thank Inkosikazi Nomandla Mhlauli, who served this house and country with commitment, diligence and selflessness. Aaah Nomandla, you leave a formidable legacy and a strong foundation on which to build the South Africa we want.
It is my hope that this House will continue to advance the empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality within this institution.
We should be inspired by our country’s many pioneering women leaders, such as Hosi N’wamitwa wa Valoyi, whose determined struggle against gender discrimination is a testament to the obstacles that women must conquer to secure their dignity and what is rightfully theirs.
Her story confirms that we are a democratic and empowering society. The heroic contributions of women leaders should not be relegated to fireside stories or to the fading culture of oral history.
Women’s emancipation and empowerment should remain one of the priority programmes of this House. We should approach the next reconstitution of the House with the assurance that women representation will increase, and significantly so.
Honourable Members,
You take office at a time when our country is facing many challenges. These include poverty, unemployment, inequality, the rising cost of living, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating floods, and the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide.
While these challenges may at times appear insurmountable and overwhelming, we must take to heart the Guinean proverb which says: “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”
We see this house as an important platform to address these challenges, now and into the future.
We pledge to work with you and support you in leading national recovery and reconstruction, and to build a South Africa that leaves no-one behind.
Over the years, I have greatly appreciated and benefited from the wise counsel of this House. I am convinced that if we work together, act boldly and decisively, we will be able to resolve our challenges as we did many times in the past.
As we reflect on what we need to move forward together we recall the words of the great Pan Africanist and son of the soil, Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, who said:
“We have to go out as apostles to preach the New Gospel of Africanism and to hasten and bring about the birth of a new nation. Such minor insignificant differences of languages, customs, etcetera, will not hinder or stop the irresistible onward surge of the African spirit.”
As representatives and leaders within our communities, it is up to us to carry with us that African spirit as we pursue an inclusive and just society.
I wish to add my voice to the call for the formalisation and strengthening of the functioning of a Kings and Queens Forum.
We see it as an important platform to tap into the collective wisdom of our Majesties. The Forum will help us to address disputes around traditional leadership, gender-based violence and other social ills, initiation challenges and others.
The Forum will help us to document the history of our nation and the role of traditional leaders in our struggle and development as a nation.
In the 2023 State of the Nation Address we emphasised the importance of forging a consensus among all sectors of our society to rebuild our economy and address the developmental needs of our communities.
Our local economic development efforts will no doubt be enhanced by the work that the institution of traditional and Khoi-San leadership has come up with in the form of the Invest Rural Masterplan.
We welcome the plan’s focus on converting rural development challenges into investable opportunities, covering such critical areas as infrastructure development, agriculture, service delivery, financial inclusion and rural enterprise development.
I recall the late Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu sharing a copy of the Masterplan with me. He said we should use it as a blueprint for partnering to deepen socio-economic development in rural communities. May Inkosi Mahlangu’s soul continue to rest in peace and in honour of his memory may we ensure that we make effective rural development a reality.
One of the resolutions taken at the Local Government Summit last year was that the Masterplan should be shared with all municipalities so that it can inform their plans. Such an approach should complement and reinforce the District Development Model.
We will need the counsel of traditional leaders in identifying the endowments, competitive advantages and potential industrial opportunities of each of the localities with traditional leadership.
These are critical building blocks in building resilient, safe, sustainable, prosperous, cohesive, connected and climate smart communities.
Skilling our people is critical. In doing so we must harness indigenous knowledge systems.
We should use resources such as land. Communal land should be leveraged as capital that can support investment in community development.
I am pleased that the long-awaited Communal Land Administration and Tenure Summit finally took place in May last year.
The Summit came after a series of consultations coordinated under the leadership of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza. Very rich discussions took place at the Summit leading to insightful outcomes on the direction the country should be taking.
Some of the pertinent issues require policy interventions and will still need to be subjected to public participation as they take shape. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform remains seized with the outcomes of the Summit to ensure that they are indeed taken forward.
The scourge of gender-based violence and femicide shows no signs of abating.
As leaders, as people of standing in our communities, we have to play our part.
We should make it impossible for perpetrators to live, work and socialise amongst us. We must shape the way boys and girls relate with each other. Let us nurture young men and women who see each other as equals and as partners in development and growth.
Those of us who are men ought to be found at the forefront of this fight, as we confront toxic masculinity and patriarchal practices that seek to oppress and supress women.
We take this opportunity to recognise the valuable contributions of progressive men and women. These include the National Men’s Parliament programme, of which this House is a partner, alongside Parliament and the SANAC Men’s Sector. Let us support programmes of this nature to drive collective action against patriarchy and all that is represents.
Another issue that is slowly reaching epidemic proportions is the deaths of initiates.
As part of the effort to address this problem, the Customary Initiation Act came into effect in 2021. The Act aims to protect lives, set norms and standards, and ensure that initiation takes place in a controlled and safe environment.
The 2022 summer initiation has just concluded in some of the provinces that practice summer initiation.
Based on preliminary information the challenges of illegal initiation schools and initiation casualties are still a big problem. Nonetheless, there are thousands of initiates who underwent this customary rite of passage successfully and safely.
Indeed, it is possible to have safe initiation practices. We congratulate the parents, initiation school principals, guardians and provinces that made this possible.
We also congratulate provinces that took decisive action to close illegal initiation schools. It is through such action and partnerships with parents and communities that we will achieve safe initiation practices and the realisation of the rallying call of “Mabaye bephila babuye bephila”.
AmaKhosi should continue to ensure the effective implementation of the Act. Those found to be on the wrong side of the law should be prosecuted and we should not be lenient on this. The lives of our sons and brothers depend on this.
Honourable Members,
We have made good progress in creating a sound legal basis for the institution of traditional and Khoi-San leadership to function. The Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act has now been signed into law. To give effect to this provision, government has appointed a Commission on Khoi-San Matters, and the Commission is currently receiving applications for recognition.
On the 2nd of February 2022, I took a decision to establish an Inter-Ministerial Task Team led by the Deputy President to resolve all matters raised by traditional and Khoi-San leaders.
It is pleasing to note that the Inter-Ministerial Task Team is gaining momentum, particularly on issues relating to communal land policy, and that there has been collaboration with Communal Property Associations.
The workstreams have been attending to matters around heritage promotion, and the Spatial Planning, Land Utilisation and Management Act, known as SPLUMA.
Proposals on the provision of administration grants to Traditional Councils and the recognition of headmen and headwomen are also under serious consideration.
I wish to thank Deputy President David Mabuza for leading this process.
As I conclude please allow me to single out the importance of culture in our society. As the institution of traditional and Khoi-San leadership, we regard you as the custodians of our culture.
Culture does not discriminate, whether you are a person with a disability or not, whether you are a person with albinism or not.
Culture does not kill, whether you choose to undergo customary initiation or not.
Culture does not humiliate, whether you or are part of the LGBTQI+ community or not.

Culture does not promote unlawfulness. It certainly does not promote the abduction of young girls in the name of ukuthwala. Culture does not violate human rights, just because you are a woman in a traditional community.
The institution of traditional leadership must stand firm against the abuse of culture.
At the same time, the institution of traditional leadership must promote and safeguard the cultural practices and traditions that have held our people together over many centuries.
As we look to our future, let us remain firmly tethered to all that is noble and worthy in our past.
Let us draw on our rich history and enduring heritage as we focus on what must be done: building a better future for South Africa and for all its people.
I thank you.