HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS
OF KWAZULU NATAL
ULUNDI: AUGUST 3, 2000
The House of Traditional Leaders of KwaZulu Natal is very pleased to receive the Minister of Provincial Affairs and Local Government, with the Director-General, who within the national level of government, carries the line function responsibility for traditional leadership. When the Minister requested this meeting, we were pleased to call our House together to give the Minister an opportunity to address us. We have received a copy of the proposed agenda of matters which the Minister wishes to address during this meeting with us. Many of them are part of an ongoing process of interdepartmental relations, focusing especially on issues relating to local government elections.
We understand that during this meeting the Minister will wish to discuss matters affecting co-operative governance, especially at this critical juncture in which new municipalities are to be established in rural areas. This visit of the Minister to our House takes place in one of the most crucial times for the history of traditional leadership. Very sensitive negotiations have been occupying traditional leaders across the country for the past year. These negotiations are now lodged with the President and traditional leaders are expecting an answer from the President to the detailed proposal which they unanimously formulated and presented to the President on June 29, 2000.
Traditional leaders are extremely concerned that the establishment of municipalities will create a potentially explosive situation in rural areas, causing a major set-back in our joint and shared efforts to promote the social, economic and cultural development of people in rural areas. During many stages of the parliamentary debate on the legislation establishing the new local government dispensation, there has been an almost pathological syndrome of denial cloaking the issue of traditional leadership. It was denied that the establishment of municipalities would adversely affect the powers, functions and role of traditional leaders across the country.
In the unanimous submission they made to the President, traditional leaders have incontrovertibly proved and documented that the establishment of municipalities will fundamentally undermine the very core of their role, powers and functions. Not only will traditional leaders be undermined, but so too will the entire institution of traditional leadership and the system of indigenous law and custom which now shapes the life of traditional communities. Our societal organisation will be pushed towards a process aimed at making it fade away. Traditional leaders pointed out all these facts and circumstances in their detailed submission to the President.
Moreover, traditional leaders abided by the request of the President to make a unanimous and detailed proposal on how the existing legislation and, if needed, the Constitution, may be amended to resolve the clash between the powers and functions of traditional leadership and those of municipalities. Traditional leaders have lodged their dialogue with the President on this matter and, therefore, they will be waiting for the President to revert to them. We feel that it would be improper for us to pre-empt the discussion with the President, which we hope will be scheduled for as soon as possible. Therefore, we feel that it would be inappropriate for us to engage in such discussions in this venue at this time.
However, these circumstances must be kept in mind to properly contextualise the visit of the Minister to our House. This visit takes place against the backdrop of truly dramatic circumstances, which will undoubtedly qualify any discussion we may have in respect of co-operative governance. Co-operative governance is a concept introduced by the Constitution which, undoubtedly, receives universal support. We all share the common objective of ensuring that the action of all levels of governance can indeed be so co-ordinated as to provide the best possible assistance to rural people, in particular, who are most afflicted by the plight of poverty, unemployment and lack of services.
We keep our eyes firmly focused on the issue of delivery of services and we believe that all efforts must be made to ensure that government performs at its best. For this reason, we believe that it is essential that the role of traditional leadership is not only preserved, but is indeed augmented. Traditional leadership must be provided with additional administrative capacity to be able to provide the full measure of the contribution it can deliver towards the upliftment of our people. Co-operative governance must be seen in the context of the need to strengthen rather than weaken traditional leadership, otherwise the very notion of co-operative governance becomes an empty buzzword.
One must wonder about the extent to which co-operative governance does indeed apply to traditional leadership. Co-operative governance relates to the interaction among levels of government. Amongst other things, it requires that the institutional integrity and the functional competence of each sphere of government be protected, so as to avoid undue influence, encroachment and limitations on the autonomy of any sphere of government. To me, the notion of co-operative governance has a meaning only to prescribe that the level of government which is somehow stronger respects the weaker one. The prescription to co-operate requires respecting the lower levels of government. Without such notion of respect there would be no need to prescribe co-operation, for the stronger level of government, usually the centre of government, could exact co-operation without the need for any specific constitutional prescription.
Therefore, the co-operation which is often requested of traditional leaders must be predicated within the recognition of their autonomy, role, powers and functions. In fact, traditional leaders share the features of both the local sphere of government as well as those of institutions of civil society. Traditional leadership is both a tool of the governance of communities, as well as the instrument through which communities govern themselves in terms of African democracy. Traditional leadership is the expression of the right of self-determination of traditional communities to live by their laws, customs and traditions and to seek their social development and economic upliftment in ways consonant with their societal features. For this reason, the central government should give a special and extra measure of respect to the institution of traditional leadership.
Traditional leaders are now faced with the possible establishment of municipalities in the area of their jurisdiction. They are expected to provide their co-operation in a context in which co-operation towards the institution of traditional leadership has not yet been shown. In the letter that the President wrote to traditional leaders, the President himself commits our government to avoid establishing municipalities within the areas of jurisdiction of traditional leaders until discussions between the President and traditional leaders have been completed and an agreement has been fully explored to find ways and means to avoid the clash between the powers of municipalities and those of traditional leaders.
The President has specifically indicated that such ways and means may include the amendment of legislation or the Constitution. It is important that the notion that municipalities will not be established in rural areas until this process is concluded, has firmly been entrenched in this debate. Therefore, we will need to wait until this process has been concluded before we can give the correct context to discussions related to the co-operation between traditional leaders and municipalities. Once the clash between the powers of municipalities and traditional leaders is resolved, traditional leaders will undoubtedly be eager to participate in co-operative governance with any relevant municipality so as to enhance the delivery of services.
I felt it important to make these preliminary observations to place in the right context the important things that the Minister wishes to share with all of us. As the Minister with the line function responsibility over traditional leadership, the Minister has undoubtedly many important matters that he needs to discuss with us. We hope that among such matters there will also be discussion about possible measures which can be taken to strengthen the role of the National House of Traditional Leaders and provide greater support and capacity to the provincial Houses.
We are pleased by the opportunity of this meeting because we wish to maintain a two-way dialogue with the Minister. It is important that traditional leaders take this opportunity to mention to the Minister the concerns they have, as well as their aspirations. Undoubtedly, the briefing that the Minister will be giving to this House will be very informative. It is important that amaKhosi become increasingly conversant with the technical aspects of the many issues which the Minister has placed on the agenda of this meeting.
Some of them relate to local government elections and the new local government dispensation. Others go beyond the issue of local government and affect the broader issues of social development and human upliftment in rural areas, including the development of infrastructure, the delivery of services and the future of the Masekhane campaign. However, all these issues to some extent depend on the role that one sees traditional leaders playing in them. These issues and questions go back to the present and future role of traditional leadership. It is important that traditional leaders listen carefully to what the Minister has to say so that, together, we can assess the situation and find a way forward.
With these few words I wish to welcome the Minister to the House of Traditional Leaders of KwaZulu Natal. I wish to assure him that we feel privileged to have him with us today and we look forward to his presentation. We thank him wholeheartedly for having travelled to come and see us, and for the time he has spent with us. His presence here is proof of goodwill and dedication to making co-operative governance a reality. After all, institutions of government are legal fictions. The only existing reality is that of people who play specific roles within society. It is essential that such people have opportunities, such as the present one, to meet, to openly discuss issues and to find one another. Therefore, I welcome the Minister and once again thank him for being with us today.
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