Inkosi Mzimela has given us a detailed account of the long tale of the negotiations between government and traditional leaders. He told us of the various stages of negotiations and of the many technicalities of which it comprised. It is important that he reported in such detail so that we all know exactly what happened and his account of the facts stay in the records of history. However, the simple summary of what happened can be captured in a few statements. Municipalities will exercise powers previously enjoyed by traditional authorities, and will do so not within each community, but from outside our communities. They will not apply our laws and traditions but different laws. Traditional authorities will no longer have the power to exercise basic functions such as deciding which land is to be planted, and which is to built upon, or to give the permission to erect buildings, or conduct other developments. Whoever wishes to obtain a government licence, permission or authority to conduct any activity, will need to approach municipalities rather than traditional authorities. In order to avoid this obliteration of the powers and functions of traditional authorities, amaKhosi negotiated for over six years, and in the past ten months, engaged our Head of State and Head of Government in direct negotiation.

Throughout this process we were assured that the powers of traditional authorities would not be obliterated. There has always been general recognition that traditional authorities are necessary to promote development and foster the welfare of the people. We received promises that the Constitution would be amended and the legislation changed to ensure that powers of traditional authorities would not be eroded, or would be restored if such erosion had already taken place in law. The President himself made this commitment to traditional leaders on the two occasions which were recalled in detail by Inkosi Mzimela.

In the end, elections are taking place without any legislation having been adopted, or the Constitution having been amended to avoid the obliteration of the powers of traditional authorities. At the last moment, just a few hours ago, government produced a gesture of goodwill. It once again promised that the Constitution would be amended. This last moment promise is stronger and more unqualified than the one which was made before. It is also more detailed because it identifies the actual chapters of the Constitution to be amended and clarifies that the purpose of the constitutional amendment is, indeed, that of recognising traditional authorities as local government structures, which is the main objective that traditional leaders sought to achieve throughout negotiations. Therefore, in this respect this last moment promise is a major breakthrough.

However, we cannot help considering that what has been achieved is nothing but a promise, which follows similar promises which were made in the past. It is an important promise because never before did Government come out with such a clear commitment to amend the Constitution, and recognise that traditional authorities are, and should remain, local government structures. However, this promise was made only on the eve of the elections, obviously to placate the disappointment and anger of traditional leaders. There is no reason why such promise could not have been made on equal terms six months ago when there was sufficient time to implement it, before elections through adequate constitutional amendments.

This promise is also one of those commitments which are not self-fulfilling and require the complex process of negotiation to be translated into reality. Government did not even mention what type of amendments to the Constitution it is willing to consider, and never even reacted to the constitutional amendment proposed by traditional leaders and submitted to it three months ago. If the Government’s intention to amend the Constitution had not materialised at the last moment, on the eve of elections, once government had its back to the wall, facing the anger of traditional leadership, government could have obviously developed some language to substantiate its intention to amend the Constitution. The President spoke about constitutional amendments on May 16, and if the intention was to give credence and substance to his statement, government should have started to produce proposals for constitutional amendments months ago and an actual text should have been disclosed and discussed long ago. Therefore, one wonders whether once the elections are over, government will retain the intent of amending the Constitution.

The Statement of Intent which Inkosi Mzimela read to us is exactly that - a Statement of Intent and not a binding agreement. It is not even a firm position of government because it will need to be ratified by Cabinet next Wednesday and after elections. This places us in an invidious position of looking at the way forward and deciding what to do under the circumstances. On paper, what we have received is not worth much and it can hardly offset the hard fact that the powers of traditional authorities will be obliterated in a few days. It is a Statement of Intent which can hardly be sufficient to counter the intent that government has pursued constantly and persistently for the past six years, which is that of obliterating traditional structures. If we look at what we have on paper and what we have in reality, there is little to give us confidence that after elections much more will be done to protect and preserve the powers and functions of traditional authorities, than that which was done before the elections. The hard fact is that nothing was done before the elections and it is difficult to explain, objectively speaking, why we should expect more to be done after elections.

However, in the unfolding of history and in the dynamics of politics, one needs to take into account more than the hard facts and that which is captured on paper. During this process we have witnessed certain leaders playing different roles and pursuing different agendas. We have all witnessed the earnest efforts of President Thabo Mbeki to find a solution to this problem. He made repeated commitments to amend the Constitution, which no one forced him to do, and which he could have easily declined making. In making these commitments he went ahead of his Cabinet and even countered the direction taken by the line-function responsible department. President Mbeki exercised leadership when he cut across all the legal technicalities and sophistry generated by people in his own office and stated that he did not care whether the powers and functions of traditional authorities had already been obliterated or would be obliterated shortly. He stated that in either case he committed his government to protecting or restoring the powers of traditional authorities. This was a courageous position for him to take, for which he must receive our appreciation.

We must also recognise the efforts made by Deputy President, Jacob Zuma. When Minister Mufamadi presented a Bill which was a non-starter, he and his office stepped in to produce a new and better one. In their efforts they were limited by the constraints flowing from the fact that the Constitution had not been amended. However, we had the opportunity of witnessing the earnest nature of his intents. He worked hard to find a solution to this problem with dedicated efforts. We must also acknowledge and recognise the efforts of other leaders, such as the ANC’s Secretary-General, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, who emphasised on several occasions the importance of finding a solution to this problem. Positive statements also came from the Minister of Justice, Dr Penuell Maduna.

Therefore, one should see this Statement of Intent, which Inkosi Mzimela read to us, within the line of efforts that these leaders have brought to the fore to solve the problem. The value of this Statement of Intent will depend entirely on the future goodwill of the Government and its leadership to implement it. It is nothing but an empty piece of paper which will need to be filled with actual content to further political commitments and efforts. It will be much more difficult to bring about a solution after elections than it was before elections. Municipal councils will be established and will not be willing to lose any of their powers or areas of jurisdiction. However, we have no option but that of bringing the process forward and relying on the hope that this Statement of Intent is indeed a bridge to carry past efforts into the new context which will come to pass after elections.

It is only our confidence that President Mbeki, Deputy President Zuma and other Ministers of goodwill will give substance and detail to this otherwise empty commitment, which now enables me to avoid discarding it out of hand in spite of the bad experience I had when President Mandela dishonoured the agreement that I signed him and the then President de Klerk on the 19th of April, in 1994. It is because of such confidence which I still have in these men, that I see a certain measure of value in the Statement of Intent. It is almost a paradox of history that we are here discussing this matter and having to assess before elections the value of a document embodying a promise of something which may be done after elections. The very existence of this problem is the consequence of the breach of the solemn promise by President Mandela which I have referred to, which was never honoured. There would not be a problem, there would not be a clash between the powers of traditional authorities and those of municipalities, there would not be such a crisis, if the solemn promise which President Mandela made to us before the April 1994 elections had been honoured.

On April 19, 1994, the then State President, FW de Klerk, former President Mandela and I entered into a solemn Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace which called for international mediation to resume as soon as possible after elections to settle in such fashion the list of outstanding constitutional issues, which included the position of our Kingdom and that of its amaKhosi. Once he became President, Nelson Mandela did not honour his signature on this agreement and, in spite of numerous requests, international mediation did not resume. Therefore, the issue of traditional leadership was determined by the Constitutional Assembly which disregarded entirely the detailed submission it received from traditional leaders on May 13, 1995. The root of this problem is this fundamental breach of faith and honour. We are now faced with yet again another promise of things to come after elections. In 1994 the only certainty we had was that the Constitutional Assembly would be empowered after elections with the power and the duty to write a Constitution which would deal also with matters affecting our Kingdom and traditional leadership. In 1994 the only hope we had was that the promise of a President would be upheld so that international mediation could direct how the Constitutional Assembly would deal with these issues.

Today, six years later, the only certainty we have is that the powers and functions of traditional authorities will be obliterated and assumed by municipalities. The only hope we have is that President Mbeki and Deputy President Zuma will make good on their stated intent to amend the Constitution to provide for local government powers and functions of traditional authorities. It is a difficult position but we have no alternative other than continuing our struggle. We have no alternative but to go into the elections in two days to ensure that our struggle emerges from the next election stronger rather than weaker. Because the struggle continues we must ensure that our massive participation in voting in the next elections enables us to be stronger in the struggle and support our traditional leaders. We must elect people who can support the struggle even if sitting on municipal councils.

Municipal councils will be established and there will be no stopping them. We must ensure that we participate as actively and as massively as possible in the elections next Tuesday to elect Councillors who can work with traditional authorities and will assist in the process of transformation which President Mbeki and Deputy President Zuma have now promised. There will be unavoidable conflicts between traditional authorities and municipalities. It is essential that we vote to elect councils who will be able to mediate these conflicts and respect traditional authorities. We must choose between Councillors and political parties who can be part of the solution and those who are part of the problem. If the Constitution is amended, certain powers and functions and certain areas of jurisdiction will need to be taken away from municipal councils to be reinstated in traditional authorities. Therefore, we need to elect Councillors and political parties in local government which are willing to support and facilitate this process rather than resist it.

It is essential that each of us becomes an agent to mobilise others to go and vote in the elections next Tuesday. Everyone should take it upon himself or herself to motivate all his or her friends and acquaintances to go and vote. Do not vote alone, take all your friends and neighbours with you. It is only by strengthening political parties who support amaKhosi, that the struggle for our Kingdom and for the development of rural areas through traditional authorities may be brought forward after elections. We must elect the right candidates in each municipality. We must elect candidates whom amaKhosi can work with and candidates who will defer to and respect amaKhosi whenever it is necessary. If this does not happen the conflicts between traditional authorities and municipalities will paralyse the functioning of local government and the development of rural areas. The crisis indeed begins on December 6, and the people affected by such crisis are all the people living in rural areas. If we allow Councillors to be elected who are inimical to traditional leadership and hold traditional leadership in the same contempt which was shown during their negotiations with government, in each municipality there will be a crisis which will adversely affect the delivery of each and every service and the chances for growth and development in that community. The future of each community depends on the election of Councillors who support traditional leaders and on the massive turn-out of people at the voting stations next Tuesday.

We must ensure that we make arrangements to transport as many people as possible to voting stations so that the struggle of our traditional leaders may be carried forward after elections. This is the crucial juncture of our history that will determine how the development of our rural areas and the poorest part of our province, will take place. From next Tuesday’s election the future of our Kingdom will be determined. The support of amaKhosi is the support for our Kingdom. We must vote to support amaKhosi and to support our Kingdom. Amakhosi are the backbone of our Kingdom and if amaKhosi fail, the Kingdom fails. Our voting will strengthen the struggle of amaKhosi and ensure the survival of our Kingdom at a juncture at which so many vested interests are manoeuvring in the dark to undermine and destroy our Kingdom.

I have spent all my life promoting the interests of the Kingdom and the interests of poorer people in rural areas. Throughout each stage of Cabinet discussions and in Parliament, I opposed all the legislation aimed at obliterating the powers of traditional authorities. I was often alone in raising my voice to defend our Kingdom and traditional leaders throughout the country. Traditional leaders throughout the country are now united and recognise the necessity of closing ranks against a common threat. However, I have often remained alone to speak out on their behalf in Cabinet and in other fora. I have carried the struggle on my shoulders for so many years and with so much personal suffering. Now it is time for the people to bring their own struggle one step forward on election day. Now is the time for the people to become protagonists and choose their own destiny. Now is the time for the people in rural areas and for the poor people to speak out and be counted. It is only by supporting amaKhosi and political parties which support them, that people in rural areas can make the statement that they also wish to be counted. We can no longer have a situation where people in urban areas dictate to people in rural areas. We can no longer have a situation where the interests of urban areas continue to remain more important than those of rural areas.

Let the word go out from this place throughout the rest of the country that in the next election people must vote to support their amaKhosi. Let this be not only the slogan that we use in KwaZulu Natal but let it echo throughout the land. Traditional leaders have been united in a coalition which is comprised of all provinces of South Africa. They must remain united throughout this crucial time of the election. Their people must be united. We must unite all the people in rural areas under the amaKhosi and under the flag of development, development, development. Now is the time to turn the country around and focus on the development of rural areas. Now is the opportunity to make your voice heard. Now is the time to vote and speak up, for yourselves, for your Kingdom and for your amaKhosi. May God bless all of you in our efforts to provide our country with the secure path towards development and prosperity.