Honourable Minister of Justice and officials of the Department of Justice who have accompanied the Minister on his visit to Mahlabathini; amaKhosi of this district; the Honourable Inkosi NJ Ngubane, the KwaZulu Natal Minister of Traditional Affairs, Safety & Security and Local Government; the Magistrate of Mahlabathini and other senior officials. I rise to welcome the Minister to this district on behalf of amaKhosi and people of this district.

This is an historic visit. During the past era, Ministers from national government visited the people only on very ceremonial occasions. This occasion is different because the Minister is paying a visit which is one of many that the President and Ministers in the national government are paying to various parts of the country under the auspices of what has become known as Imbizo. The aim of such visits is to present the people with an occasion where they can interact directly with the President and Ministers of State. This is something quite new in the history of our country.

Although people here are complaining that they did not get sufficient notice that the Minister will be paying a visit of this kind to our district, I do hope that those of you who are present today will take full advantage to have useful exchanges with the Minister.

We all rejoice that this visit is in fact taking place because it is evidence that we are now operating under a democratic government elected by the people themselves. When the people voted in those in government, whether at provincial or national levels, the people gave them a mandate to serve them. On these occasions, Ministers are eager to know how service delivery is taking place. At the same time, they want to know exactly what the people on the ground who elected them, wish them to do to carry out the mandate given to Ministers elected to office.

Those of us who have been amaKhosi for several decades know that a Magistrate's office such as this one was the only place to which people directed all their wants and issues, and which were used by all Departments of State to carry out their policies. Magistrates' offices were, in other words, points of delivery. Because of the apartheid policies of the past, rural magistracies were neglected. For instance, while one admires the masonry of those who constructed this building more than 100 years ago, it is quite clear that it is now inadequate for the purposes of doing what it is supposed to do. We realise that the poverty of our people is such that the Government has other priorities than just providing adequate buildings, particularly in rural areas. Even though we acknowledge this fact, we do now expect that a government elected by us should do everything to provide adequate buildings. Such infrastructure is not only appropriate as a channel of service delivery, but also because it is owed to our dignity after so many years in which our dignity as black South Africans was demeaned in various ways.

At one time I approached the former Minister of Justice, Dr Abdullah Omar, when after our 1994 elections there was hardly any justice dispensed from this office. In fact, there was no resident Magistrate here at the time. I rang warning bells that this situation fuelled the levels of lawlessness which has escalated in our country since 1994. It was the first time in more than 100 years that there was no resident Magistrate here. Just psychologically it was bad for the people of this district to know that there was no one who was the representative of our criminal justice system who was resident in the district. The then Minister of Justice soon corrected the position after my representations to him.

I can say that if there are people who suffer the brunt of the past colonial period and of the apartheid era, it is rural people. I know this from my own experience as someone who has served this community for decades, both as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, and later as Chairperson of the Regional Authority of the district, and later as Chief Minister in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government.

Even though I cannot speak authoritatively any more about what is presently going on in this district, I know that in the past our people suffered unbelievable inconveniences because there was often only two Magistrates available. As you can see, Minister, people have to travel long distances on foot to come to the Magistrate's offices and to the Magistrate's Court. Invariably people who come for service delivery, or to attend court cases, would be to-ing and fro-ing to this office for months on end. Because of the few Magistrates available, cases were often postponed for months on end, resulting in quite a lot of hardships for members of the public. As you jurists say, Minister, justice delayed is justice denied.

As your colleague in the national Government, I would rather not be the spokesperson of the people on this particular occasion, because you have come to listen to the people and not to me.

Minister Maduna is our son-in-law, so when he comes here in his official capacity, he also comes as our son-in-law. Mrs Mpumi Maduna is the daughter of my cousin, Mrs Grace Mshengu. Mrs Mshengu is the daughter of the Reverend Luthuli, who was a Lutheran Minister at Ceza Mission for many years. As some of you know, the Rev. Luthuli was married to my aunt, who was the mother of Dr Maduna's mother-in-law, Mrs Grace Mshengu. We also welcome you in that capacity, Minister, and we hope that the few hours that you are spending with us here will be fruitful both to yourself and to our communities in this district.

It is now my privilege to ask the Honourable Minister to deliver his address to explain to you all the purpose of his visit to Mahlabathini District.