Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Mahlangu, Ndzundza!
Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Nkosikazi Mhlauli, Ahh Nosandi!
Your Majesties, Kings and Queens,
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Amos Masondo,
Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise,
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Portfolio and Select Committees,
Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders and all traditional leaders present,
President of Contralesa, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena,
Chairperson of the National Khoisan Council, Mr Cecil le Fleur,
Leaders of Political Parties,
Directors-General and Heads of Department,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Avuxeni! Molweni! Ndimatsheloni! Sanibonani! Lotjhani! Dumelang! Goeie more! Good morning!
It is my pleasure to address this year’s opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders and to greet you.
I wish to begin by paying tribute to our traditional leaders who have passed away over the past year.
We mourn their loss and may their souls rest in peace.
Some of our leaders have passed away due to the deadly pandemic that is still very much with us.
The coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 2.5 million people worldwide, and over 50,000 in our own country.
I would like to express my gratitude to you as traditional leaders for joining government to fight the pandemic.
You worked with us to ensure communities observe regulations and protocols, including with respect to funerals and other gatherings.
You have assisted with the procurement of personal protective equipment and the distribution of food parcels together with various stakeholders.
In partnership with the Department of Social Development, the National House also helped with the distribution of child-friendly masks, sanitisers and other supplies to 23 early childhood development centres in eight of our provinces.
We would like to thank you for your contribution.
With partnerships of this nature, we can do more to improve the plight of our communities.
If it were not for these concerted efforts, many more lives would have been lost.
You have also understood, as we all do, that sacrifices have had to be made if we are to keep ourselves and our communities safe.
You have understood that the regulations in place are for the health and safety of the entire nation.
I want to commend the National House of Traditional Leaders, the provincial houses and Contralesa for your management of the customary initiation process during the pandemic.
As hard a decision as it was to make, you agreed that we suspend initiation in all provinces when the pandemic was at its height.
As a result, we were able to ensure that fewer people were exposed to the virus.
When the regulations were eased and some schools reopened, you worked with us to create awareness around health and safety at those schools that were practising.
Traditional leaders, through their structures and working with government, conducted rigorous awareness campaigns and monitoring, helping to ensure that illegal initiation schools were closed down.
We know that the death of a single initiate is one death too many, and we must build on the improvements that have been made.
Government urges the institution to strive for zero deaths, in line with the slogan “Abaye baphila, babuya baphila”.
Let me provide progress on a number of issues raised during our last engagement.
At the opening of this House last year, we said that we would host the Presidential Summit on Land.
At the time we indicated that it would be important for each Provincial House to have their own engagements to inform the process leading up to the Summit.
Such consultations would include broader society, such as youth formations, women’s groups and people living with disabilities.
I am advised that owing to the lockdown restrictions these provincial engagements could not be concluded.
I am however pleased that even under these difficult circumstances, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Land Reform chaired by the Deputy President has continued to do further work on the key issues.
For example, analyses have been done on experiences and lessons from Ghana to supplement what was learned last year during study tours to Botswana and Uganda.
The Inter-Ministerial Committee has continued to oversee work on policy research around the important issue of communal land tenure.
We remain committed to hosting the Presidential Summit on Land and it is critical that we resuscitate the initial plans to convene provincial engagements beforehand.
The institution of traditional leadership must be at the forefront of both land reform and the agrarian revolution.
The National House partnered with the Solidarity Fund to implement the Farming Inputs Voucher project, which helped mitigate the impact of the pandemic on traditional farming communities.
I have further been advised that the Department of Traditional Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development now have a Memorandum of Understanding in support of agricultural projects in rural communities.
On the matter of the powers and functions of traditional leaders, the broad consultations we agreed to last year will need to be conducted.
We will need to be creative about consultation mechanisms under the new conditions that COVID-19 has imposed on us to ensure we reach all sectors of society.
On the legislative front, there has also been progress.
Earlier this week, the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament and will soon be sent to me for assent.
The Customary Initiation Bill has been considered by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces and is currently on the National Assembly Order Paper for consideration.
I am pleased to report that the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act will come into effect from the 1st of April 2021.
This is a significant milestone.
The country’s Khoi and San leaders will, after following the prescribed processes, for the first time enjoy official recognition and will serve in the National and Provincial Houses.
In October last year, I announced the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan for our country.
As we emerge from the second wave of COVID-19 infections, our focus now is on recovery and rebuilding.
We must with urgency apply ourselves to initiatives that will get our economy back on track, that will stimulate job creation and that will support community development.
The InvestRural Master Plan, which aims to unlock the potential of traditional communities, was launched in Phokeng on the 25th of February 2021.
The Master Plan is expected to capacitate traditional leaders, traditional councils and communities to fight rural poverty and foster self-sufficiency.
During the December Strategic Planning Session, the National House, Provincial Houses and Contralesa passed several Resolutions.
One of these resolutions was to develop an action plan on four key themes.
These themes being socio-economic development in traditional communities, empowerment of Traditional Councils, the empowerment of women, and, more broadly, social cohesion, nation-building and moral regeneration.
We look forward to the work that will be done in these important areas together with the relevant departments this year.
Gender-based violence remains a massive problem in our country, and threatens the health and safety of women and children.
We note with appreciation the efforts of traditional leaders to fight this scourge as well as other harmful cultural practices.
This includes the commitment by the National House to work with the Men’s Sector of the South African National Aids Council to establish Men’s Parliaments in all 882 Traditional Councils.
I understand that the plan is for these Men’s Parliaments to meet once every quarter, where men and boys can discuss gender-based violence and femicide and the contribution they can make to ending.
Members of this House,
The coronavirus pandemic will continue to be with us for some time to come.
The task of rebuilding our country is an immense one.
The partnerships between government, traditional leaders, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders will be key to our success.
We have demonstrated over the past year that when we work together we can achieve more.
I look forward to our continued engagement on these and other important issues in the forthcoming debate of the National House scheduled for next week.
I wish the National House of Traditional Leaders well over the coming year and look forward to deepening our collaboration.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa