Your Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation; Your Royal Highnesses; amaKhosi of the Zulu Kingdom; our guest the Minister for Land Affairs, the Honourable T Didiza; our guests from the Department of Land Affairs.

It is a great pleasure for me, in my capacity as Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Kingdom, to introduce His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation to the amaKhosi of his Kingdom, to his fatherís people and to our distinguished guests. This is an historic meeting which takes place at one of the most difficult and crucial times in the history of our Nation. What we say and do today will go down in history and be remembered and assessed by future generations as the moment in which the traditional leadership of our Kingdom came together, under the auspices of its King, to confront the final crisis which has befallen our institution.

This is the time in history in which, through our actions, we shall determine whether our Kingdom and the institution of traditional leadership, are to continue into this century, or whether we shall be remembered forever as those who were witness to the slow execution of traditional leadership, its final death and demise and its ultimate burial. At this time and in this place, we are confronted with having to decide who we are and what we are made of and destined for. We are here to look within ourselves and, having analysed the situation in which we find ourselves, to decide what role we shall play in the tragedy which is unfolding before our very eyes. We are here because we have decided that our role shall not be that of mere impotent spectators. It is incumbent upon us to make our voice heard and to play a role which is consonant with our position and the urgency of the times.

This Imbizo has been called by His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation. This very fact itself underscores the importance of the events confronting us. This Imbizo follows on an Imbizo held by the House of Traditional Leaders on October 11th during which the present situation was assessed. That meeting recognised that the present situation is so dramatic that it requires great collegial wisdom and the involvement of all our traditional leaders, and therefore a plenary meeting of all our traditional leaders was held the following week on October 18th. This Imbizo, which takes place within a mere fortnight of that plenary meeting, highlights the importance that our Nation is ascribing to the present situation, and our unwillingness to be mere impotent spectators to the continuing unfolding of events which to us appear to be aimed at destroying the institution of traditional leadership.

Following the meeting of October 18, amaKhosi approached His Majesty asking him to convene this Imbizo. This is not the first time that amaKhosi have requested this opportunity. For many years amaKhosi have sought to come together with their monarch in this fashion, but it has never been possible. The fact that now this meeting has finally happened is further evidence of the importance of the times. Nonetheless, it is regrettable that it took such impending tragedy to make this meeting possible. There is no doubt that the schism which has taken place between the Kingdom and its monarch has contributed to making such a dramatic situation possible. Had His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation not been out of contact with us and his people under us as his amaKhosi which has characterised much of his reign during the past eight years, in all probability the situation would not be as bad as it now is. However, irrespective of what happened in the past, it is now important that His Majesty is again united with his amaKhosi and with his Nation, and is ready to express the cry of indignation of his Kingdom.

The King of the Zulu Nation is the mouthpiece through which our Kingdom ought to express its righteous indignation with the present situation. The King is such only in his mystical union with his amaKhosi and his fatherís people. The King can only speak as a king, and he speaks with the voice and on the strength of the mandate of all the amaKhosi, who are the backbone of his Kingdom, so that he may express the innermost sound of his Nationís voice. We have met on many occasions to express our disquiet with the present situation. We have analysed the White Paper on Traditional Leadership, the Communal Land Rights Bill and other pieces of relevant legislation. We have borne the brunt of a string of promises, solemnly made and then dishonourably breached with cavalier nonchalance. We have spoken and raised our voice to express our moral indignation. However, on this occasion we are here to hear the voice of the King who speaks with our voice and who is the mouthpiece of his Nationís grievances.

We have travelled a long road which has been neither easy nor fortunate. We have gone down a path of a long journey which was commenced with His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation and under his aegis. We began our march with His Majesty carrying the flag ahead of us. When he dropped out, we continued the march on the charted path. Now that His Majesty rejoins us, we must take stock of where we are and again chart the path forward.

We began raising our concerns in October 1993 when it became clear that the failure of the constitutional negotiations held at the World Trade Centre to deliver a genuine federal system, was going to produce a substantially unitary state in which our Kingdom could not be accommodated. The failure to accommodate the Kingdom deprived us of that limited self-determination which would have enabled us to regulate internally matters such as the powers and functions of traditional leaders and traditional authorities, and the rules governing the administration of the land of our traditional communities.

Because in October 1993 it became clear that our Kingdom would be subject to a uniform set of rules, laws and system of government which would not enable us to express our own vision on matters such as traditional leadership, or to provide recognition to the institution of the monarchy, His Majesty raised his voice to object to it. His Majesty spoke after many months during which his delegation at the World Trade Centre could not make any headway. People mobilised behind His Majesty to have the interim Constitution, which was finalised at the World Trade Centre, modified to provide for the recognition of our Kingdom and to recognise a sufficient degree of autonomy for this region which would enable our Kingdom to regulate matters which concern it and its traditional leadership by means of its own provincial laws. Between November 1993 and March 1994, on several occasions the King and I met with the then State President FW de Klerk and with former President Nelson Mandela. We held a summit at Skukuza in March 1994 in which parameters were established to carry forward the agreement that President Mandela and I had reached on March 1, 1994, that international mediation would be held to settle these issues.

Following the Skukuza summit, international mediation was commenced, but was then wrecked. At the last moment, with the consent of His Majesty, on April 19, 1994 I entered into a solemn Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace, which called for the resumption of international mediation immediately after the April 1994 elections to settle in such fashion the outstanding constitutional issues and to provide recognition of our Kingdom within the parameters of a united South Africa. However the promise of international mediation was blatantly dishonoured and amaKhosi found themselves alone in demanding that promises be fulfilled and that the new Government honour its promises. Instead, we were soon confronted by the intention of the Government to abolish the law which we passed before the April 1994 elections to establish the Ingonyama Trust to hold the land of our amaKhosi and our traditional authorities. I piloted the legislation which established the Ingonyama Trust before the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly. It was the last legislation that we passed as the KLA.

The Ingonyama Trust Act had been discussed with representatives of the negotiating parties at the World Trade Centre in November 1993, and was again mentioned at the Skukuza summit. Yet after the elections the Government acted as if they knew nothing about it and sought to repeal it. It was only after enormous pressures and confrontation that a somehow unsatisfactory compromise was reached in terms of which the Ingonyama Trust was maintained, but the power to administer it was taken away from the control of our Kingdom and our Province to be split down the middle between the province and the central Government. Since then, we have seen a constant trend of Governmentís actions, policies and legislation which have pursued with relentless determination and consistency a clear ideological commitment. This ideological commitment is that of abolishing the institution of traditional leadership and our Kingdom as entities which may exercise in their own name legal powers and functions, or public authority, to relegate them to the realm of cultural or traditional institutions, almost as if we were a church. The ideological commitment is that of placing our institution on the same level as other organs of civil society, such as civic organisations.

We have detected the root of this ideological commitment since the beginning and fought against it each and every step of the way. Time and again, Government denied doing what it was doing and planning for that which it has eventually done. Time and again, Government denied its true ideological commitment and covered it up with lip service and false promises to the institution of traditional leadership. Throughout this long journey, during which traditional leaders objected and fought for the recognition of their institution, they did not have the benefit of the support of their King. In May 1995 traditional leaders appeared before the Constitutional Assembly to submit a clear position paper and a manifesto for the unity of all traditional leaders. Our submission indicated how traditional authorities could be accommodated on the basis of a two tier model of local government and how the indigenous land tenure system of communal property could be accommodated within the strengthened role of traditional authorities. Since then, we drew a clear connection between the position of traditional authorities in local government and the regulation of communal property in a form that would respect the function of traditional leadership to allocate, administer and determine the use of land.

We then saw the threat that the new, then incipient, local government dispensation for rural areas was posing both for traditional authorities and communal land. For this reason, we fought for the establishment of a two tier system of local government in rural areas, which in our Province could accommodate traditional authorities through the notion of so-called "remaining areas" which became entrenched in amendments made to the Local Government Transition Act. However, since the outset, we saw that the direction taken by Government had not changed and any concessions made to us were purely tactical and did not divert Government from its long-term plan to obliterate our institution. Government was merely biding its time.

For this reason, at the end of 1994 I led a delegation of amaKhosi to meet with President Mandela, with the then Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Dr FT Mdlalose, including amaKhosi and other representatives. We presented the President with a lengthy memorandum of grievances and concerns. The President told us that he did not have time to consider the memorandum but would get back to us in writing as soon as he had the time to read it carefully and consult with various departments. Months went by and, in spite of numerous requests, he never got back to us.

For this reason, almost a year later, Inkosi Holomisa and I walked up the stairs of the Union Buildings leading large delegations of amaKhosi from all over South Africa, carrying another memorandum which restated some of the same concerns. In spite of arrangements having been made, it turned out that the President was not there to receive us, but we were assured that our second memorandum would be answered by the President. As was the case with the first memorandum, this second one received no response whatsoever. Reading those two documents, one clearly realises that those same themes and concerns are still confronting us, which proves that if there were any willingness to accommodate us, Government would have taken note of the problems and dealt with the issues as early as seven years ago. Instead, Government chose to deal with us as one would with a problem, trying to placate us and neutralise us while they were intent on destroying us.

On March 16, 1996, a meeting was organised by President Mandela with our King to discuss the issue of traditional leadership. However, that meeting was cut short and the President did not stay long enough for anything of substance to be discussed. Following that meeting, the Government did not change its course of action and made no commitment.

Instead, the Government proceeded to finalise a constitution which effectively obliterated any power which traditional authorities could exercise in respect of the governance of our communities. Effectively, the final Constitution states that only municipalities can exercise any power or function of local government and that, at best, traditional leaders acting as individuals, may be given a position to participate in the structure of municipalities. By shifting the power of governance from traditional authorities to municipalities, the premises were put in place to obliterate over time our entire system of indigenous law and custom, as municipalities can only operate on the basis of uniform laws adopted by Parliament or a provincial legislature. These premises spelt the difficulty of maintaining indigenous law institutions, such as our land tenure system in which land is allocated, distributed and administered by traditional leadership.

For this and many other reasons, we objected to the final Constitution which betrayed promises made to traditional leaders.

In fact, not only did the final Constitution fail to entrench the powers and functions of traditional leadership, but it also created the process through which all such powers and functions would soon become unconstitutional. Traditional leaders from all over South Africa were united in objecting to the certification of the constitutional text before the Constitutional Court. However, the Constitutional Court handed down a decision which was both legally and historically disappointing because the governing Constitutional Principles were interpreted to mean just the opposite of what they were represented to mean when, at the World Trade Centre, the then Chairperson of the Technical Committee, who became the President of the Constitutional Court, ascribed and sold them to traditional leaders. On that occasion a further breach of trust took place.

Since then, throughout 1997 and 1998 the Government undertook a massive propaganda operation to convince traditional leaders that none of its laws and policy would undermine the institution. It went so far as to deny the existence of a conflict between the powers of the new municipalities which were to be established in the year 2000 and those of traditional authorities. Traditional leaders actively participated in the process of formulation of the White Paper on Local Government, which in the end did not reflect their views. I stated my reservations about the White Paper in Cabinet, but to no avail. During the process of implementation of this White Paper, traditional leaders made specific proposals for a two tier system of local government which comprised and respected the role of traditional authorities. I myself led the delegations of traditional leaders from all over South Africa who participated in this process. However, our views were ignored. When the new legislation defining the final system of local government was put in place, we identified that a crisis of enormous proportions had been generated and we approached the President directly.

We traditional leaders, without the assistance of our King, engaged in negotiations with Government for almost two years to redress this situation, and promises were made that the powers of traditional authorities would be restored through legislation and constitutional amendments. However, nothing came of it. Additional promises were made that some relief may come through the White Paper which the Minister for Local Government and Provincial Affairs was in the process of sponsoring. That White Paper has been in the making for several years and its last draft document was published two years ago. Traditional leaders, commented extensively on the draft discussion document presented two years ago, but never had the opportunity to see or comment on the White Paper. It is quite significant that the White Paper has been drafted without the participation of a single traditional leader in the drafting team. This shows the attitude of the White Paper as a document meant to deal with a problem, namely what they regard as the problem of traditional leadership. It is almost like when one drafts a White Paper to deal with the problem of crime and does not let criminals sit on the drafting committee.

Two years ago the President himself requested traditional leaders to comment on the discussion document by the end of June 2000, which traditional leaders did with an extensive submission, corroborated by expert opinion, which dispelled the notion that the powers of governance of traditional leadership originated in colonialism and apartheid. However, no cognisance has been taken of the submission by traditional leaders, and the factual, historical and legal premises on which this White Paper is based are plainly wrong. This Paper, which has now been passed by Cabinet over my strongest objection, is much worse than I ever thought it could be and does not solve any of the problems which we expected it to solve. Actually, it confirms that municipalities have taken over the powers and functions of traditional authorities in respect of local government. It marginalises traditional leadership to the private field of culture and tradition and moves it away from the field of governance. It only provides for the possibility that traditional leaders act as agents of the central Government, so that they can exercise only those powers and functions which are specifically delegated to them by an organ of State, and must do so exactly as they are told.

There is a pervasive trend towards eliminating any exercise of public authorities, powers and functions by the institution of traditional leadership. The notion which is being pursued is that of transforming traditional leadership into an institution of civil society, dealing with culture, tradition and heritage. The pinnacle of this plan will be the abolition of traditional authorities as statutory bodies exercising public functions. An additional step which is being taken right now in this direction is contained in the legislation which my colleague the Minister for Local Government and Provincial Affairs is promoting in respect of municipal property rates. This legislation will confirm the power of municipalities to levy rates in traditional areas and will exclude the possibility that traditional authorities may impose levies of their own, as they have done in the past. This will deprive traditional authorities of the funding necessary to maintain their capacity and perform their functions.

No step whatsoever has been taken to even consider the amendments of the Constitution which were formally promised to traditional leaders on November 30, 2000, when, at the end of exhausting and extensive negotiations, the Cabinet delegation led by Deputy President Zuma and the Coalition of Traditional Leaders agreed that chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution would be amended to provide for local government powers of traditional authorities. There is universal consensus that without a constitutional amendment, nothing can be done to preserve the institution of traditional leadership. We have seen how our government is extremely quick to produce constitutional amendments when it serves their needs, as it drafted those relating to the crossing of the floor in less than a week and it is planning to steam-roll them through Parliament in just over two months from their first publication.

It is also concerning that the integrated rural strategy of the Government does not provide for any role for traditional authorities in promoting the development of our communities. No resources are planned to be channelled to traditional authorities to promote development. Even in respect of crucial issues such as the war against HIV/AIDS, it is only because of the initiatives of traditional leaders themselves that things are beginning to change and, almost as an afterthought, it is being realised that traditional authorities have the unique capacity and experience to run programmes of action and implement developmental schemes.

This is the context in which the Communal Land Rights Bill is now being considered by Parliament. My Colleague, the Minister for Land Affairs of the central Government, the Honourable Thoko Didiza, has accepted the King's invitation to be with us today, to discuss this Bill which she is now piloting through Parliament. This Bill will have a major impact on the institution of traditional leadership and will affect our power to assign, allocate, administer and decide the use of land in our communities. In terms of this Bill, the powers we now hold in respect of the allocation and administration of our land will be transferred to one or more administrative structures which will be established in our respective communities by means of processes which are completely outside our control.

During several months of discussions, a different version of the Communal Land Rights Bill was circulated amongst the various stakeholders and in the fora of inter-governmental consultation, including MINMEC. In this previous version of the Bill there was an exclusion of the land held by the KwaZulu Natal Ingonyama Trust. However, I have been informed that this exclusion was removed. I heard from some people that it was said that this exclusion was removed because I agreed to it in Cabinet. However, I want to make it very clear that this is not the case and, since my colleague, the Minister of Land Affairs, is here with me today, I can make these remarks directly in front of her.

What really happened is that when she talked to me about this Bill, I impressed upon her the need to transfer the land from the Ingonyama Trust Act to traditional authorities, which has always been our plan as the Trust was intended as a holding vehicle, until the land could be handed over to the traditional authorities after having completed its survey. Out of this discussion, it was said that there was no difference between our position that traditional authorities should hold the land and the position that the land shall be held by representatives of communities. Since the land was being transferred to traditional communities and to the direct administration of communities, it might have been thought that giving the power to administer the land to community structures would be consistent with the notion of transferring its administration to traditional authorities. However, I indicated to my colleague that there is a profound difference, in that the way the Bill is going about empowering communities completely by-passes traditional leadership.

In my eyes, the Bill is highly problematic from a policy and political viewpoint as it will deprive traditional leadership of any power to allocate and administer land. The Bill transfers this power to a different institution, the so-called "administrative structure", representing the will and wishes of the community. Traditional leadership may not be represented by more than 25% on this structure, and its presence there and the measure thereof, depends entirely on the will of the community. This structure will be the only source of decision-making power. All decision-making needs to take place on the basis of democratic criteria of representation which are inconsistent with the present structure of traditional leadership, while the Bill restricts to only 25% the ex-officio membership of traditional leadership. It seems that this membership may not relate to the decision-making power, which means that traditional leadership will not even have 25% of decision-making power, but only 25% of the composition of the administrative structure which will have the task of implementing the decision-making power of the community. Decision-making power remains squarely within the dynamics of community decision-making.

After the Bill is enacted, if it were to be enacted in its present form, the land held by the KwaZulu Natal Ingonyama Trust Act will become the property of communities through the procedures set out in the Bill.

This Bill has a devastating effect on the very notion of traditional leadership as well as the cohesiveness of a traditional community. In fact, one could have different administrative structures within each of our communities. Our people could decide to set up one administrative structure to administer the land on this side of the river and another one for the other side of it. This will not only break down the cohesiveness of land administration in each of our areas, but will also engender endless and potentially explosive community conflicts in deciding where to draw the boundaries of each administrative structure and who should be in charge of any given tract of land. One should be mindful that the greatest wars in history have all been fought over land boundaries.

There are three possible profiles through which the Bill may undermine traditional leadership. The first is the undermining of the functions of traditional authorities, the second is the undermining of the role of traditional leaders, the third is the undermining of the cohesiveness and very nature of a traditional community, which is the substratum on which the institution of traditional leadership is predicated. Together, they are common elements of a comprehensive undermining of traditional leadership. Some of the main elements of such undermining are as follows:

  • The power of land allocation and administration and the determination of its use is removed from traditional authorities and traditional leadership to be transferred to an administrative structure which will decide who gets any given piece of land, the terms and conditions of his holding it and the use to which the land can be put;
  • the administrative structure will control who can settle on the land and therefore the access of new people to the land and to each of our communities, so that such access will become more based on land rights than on the rules of access determined by our indigenous and customary law;
  • provision is made for the dissolution of communities and for their breakdown in sub-communities or segments of a community for land tenure purposes, which will have a likely effect of extending to all other community functions;
  • the role of traditional leadership is limited to 25% of the administrative structure. In addition to such a low level of participation, provision has been made to ensure that traditional leadership has no real power within the structure, as they cannot act in such a manner that their participation "vetoes" any decision taken by the administrative structure;
  • the Bill makes provision for more than one administrative structure to be in place in what is now a traditional community, which will split the communities, which goes hand in hand with the power of each administrative structure to give names to their community or sub-communities;
  • the allocation and administration of land is separated from indigenous and customary law. We know that the administration of land is the basis on which we construct our community relations, ranging from family matters to commercial transactions. It is unpredictable how the entire system of our lives will work if the land is administered in a separate way and on the basis of different rules.

It is too easy a prediction, and yet a very painful one, that the provisions of this Bill may create bloodshed in our communities. In fact, our communities may be split into different factions, each of them claiming the right to create their own administrative structure to govern and administer the whole of the land, or several administrative structures may be put in place splitting communities which have been united since time immemorial. The administration of the land by these administrative structures will be tied directly to the powers of the national Minister of Land Affairs. Since the Minister is here with us today, perhaps she could explain to us how her Department would plan to supervise the administration of all these administrative structures. It almost seems to me that her Department would need to establish the same relationship which the Department of Local Government has with municipalities across the country, which has proven to be a very difficult relationship requiring enormous capacity in spite of many municipalities having great capacity of their own.

The Bill remains problematic from other viewpoints. One of them is the splitting of the administration of land affairs from the adjudication of disputes and controversies which arise out of such administration. At present, traditional leadership both administers the land as well as resolves any disputes arising therefrom. It is not clear whether traditional leadership may continue to deal, through its system of courts, with issues arising out of the administration of land. There does not seem to be a provision for the administrative structure to perform this role. It is clear, however, that this reform if it goes through the way it is now proposed, will have a major impact also on the jurisdiction and the role of traditional courts.

Across the board we are seeing signs of a tendency which will clearly lead to the abolition of traditional authorities. In fact, the White Paper itself makes no secret about and has no qualms in proposing that the amaKhosi and Iziphakanyiswa Act be abolished, which will eliminate traditional authorities as statutory bodies. I have expressed all these concerns of mine in Cabinet time and again. I have tabled a number of objections which have constantly either been overruled or ignored. I know that traditional leaders across the country have been relying on me to make their voice heard within the Cabinet process and within the thinking of Government. I have carried the burden of promoting the views of traditional leadership for a long time. I have not stepped back from this responsibility even when I found myself alone in having to carry it. It is clear that the Governmentís plan is to ensure that our institution may die the death of a thousand cuts and that our powers and functions may be bled out of the body of the new South Africa which emerged from the April 27, 1994 elections.

I was ready to destroy my entire political career when I was willing not to participate in the April 27, 1994 elections because the issue of our monarchy and that of traditional leadership had not been settled. I was ready to become what a political opponent, one Joe Slovo, predicted I would become when he said that it was time for me to just be a foul odour coming out of the dustbin of history. I took the stand of withholding my participation from that election because of my loyalty to the King, the monarchy and the institution of traditional leadership. I was ready to commit the ultimate political sacrifice in their name and for their sake. I entered the elections only when we had a solemn agreement that the issues would be dealt with through international mediation immediately after those elections. I was ready to sacrifice all I had to defend that which I inherited from my father and which I carry the responsibility to bequeath to my posterity. Those who have the responsibility of leadership also carry the responsibility of sacrificing and paying a high price.

We all carry the same responsibility. We all have the duty to preserve for our posterity that which we inherited from our fathers. Even His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation sits on his fatherís throne, which he has to preserve and protect for those who will come after him as his successors. None of us wants to be remembered as the last in our line of succession. The threat facing our institution is such that amaKhosi and the monarchy may become a reminiscence of the past. Without the power to administer our land and the power to govern our communities at the local level, the institution will no longer exist as it has been since time immemorial. Without the institution of traditional leadership, our monarchy will lose its backbone and to a certain extent will become meaningless. Future monarchs run the risk of being mere symbols sitting on a throne which has lost any significance and power.

For this reason, it is essential that on this occasion we hear what His Majesty has to say. We have to do what we can to bring forward the issue before us. It is essential that reason prevails before it is too late. For instance, the Communal Land Rights Bill cannot and must not go ahead as drafted. It is essential that the Government stops its policies and rethinks its entire relationship with amaKhosi. It is important that on this occasion we project an image of unity. The Zulu Nation stands united once again behind its King at this grave time of tragedy. The Zulu Nation salutes its King. May God protect the King. Long live the King. Bayete!