MEETING WITH THE REGIONAL AUTHORITY OF MAHLABATHINI
MAYIWANE HALL, MAHLABATHINI : DECEMBER 20, 2001
I appreciate the opportunity to meet with so many colleagues of my own region. It is important that we as amaKhosi come together to consider the status of our own affairs in our own Region. Often we come together as amaKhosi to discuss matters relating to the status and future of the institution of traditional leadership and other important matters affecting the whole of our Province or the future of South Africa. Those are important meetings and important debates which we must attend to. However, it is equally important, if not more important, that we come together to attend to the things which do indeed matter the most, which are those relating to the governance of our own people within our own communities. It is at the ground level that the future of traditional leadership will, in the final analysis, be won or lost. Now more than ever traditional leaders must show and prove their worth by being the good administrators and the caring and dedicated form of government which we indeed truly are.
Traditional leadership is facing great challenges and I am convinced that if we look hard enough, underneath some of them we may discover some hidden opportunities. You all know that there is no solution in sight to the clash between the powers and functions of the newly established municipalities and those always exercised by Traditional Authorities. This conflict has effectively reached a stalemate, and in spite of many promises made by government for an urgent solution to be found, there is no actual resolution of the matter anywhere in sight. The processes which commenced three years ago to negotiate a solution to this clash of powers have effectively been aborted. The President himself has made numerous and formal promises within those processes, but we do not know what the status of those promises is at this juncture.
It seems that the issue of traditional leadership is now left in abeyance in the limbo of political activity. The ad-hoc committee of ministers established by Cabinet to look into the issue did not produce anything, and a new one has been established under the chairmanship of the Deputy President, Mr JG Zuma. However, this new sub-committee has not even met with traditional leaders and there is no clarity on how its terms of reference or political mandate would in any way be different from that given to previous structures, or underpinning the efforts of the past three years. In the end all that counts is the reality of the present situation which highlights how in spite of many promises, nothing has been done to protect the powers of traditional authorities from being obliterated from the assumption of powers by municipalities.
Against the back-drop of this situation, it is essential that traditional leaders work as hard as they can to maintain the viability, importance and relevance of Traditional Authorities through our own initiatives and good service to our communities. In the past, traditional leadership existed and survived merely by virtue of the strength of its institution and the Will of God. Now we are called upon to add something more which is necessary if we are to succeed in preserving the institution we inherited from our forefathers. We must go the extra mile in proving the worth, value and necessity of our institution. We must supply and provide that which municipalities cannot give. We must work hand in hand with our communities to promote their development. For instance, I was very impressed when I went to visit Inkosi Zondo and saw how he himself leads his people into developing small farming projects and getting the most possible out of the land both in terms of crops and livestock.
For many years I have been preaching the necessity of broadening the agricultural activities in our region so as to ensure that everybody can eat under any circumstances but, unfortunately, not enough has been done to heed my words. In many respects I wish to point to the example given by Inkosi Zondo not only because he understands the importance of farming activities and subsistence agriculture, but also because he understands the importance of providing his personal, dedicated and constant leadership to make each and every project a reality. This type of leadership does not require only commitment and dedication, but also the willingness to learn and become more educated and knowledgeable on matters relating to agriculture.
I am pointing to agricultural development because I think it is the safety-net which we must put in place before anything else is ventured. As amaKhosi we need to promote development and growth whenever and however it is possible. It is important that we promote the establishment of local markets and we get the local economy going and growing. The existence and strengthening of local markets will also assist in the strengthening of agricultural activities, enabling many of them to cross over the threshold between subsistence and commercial farming as people begin selling on the market large quantities of surplus produce which they don't need for themselves. We must also harness the human resources available in our communities to direct them towards important community projects which we can undertake in spite of the lack of funding. Many people are unfortunately idle because of unemployment and we must create work opportunities even where there are no jobs. We need to get our people to work together to strengthen and improve upon the infrastructure of our communities and undertake essential projects such as irrigation projects, or the building of fences to contain and manage better livestock or the reclamation or clearance of land so that it can be put to productive use.
For all these activities, we as amaKhosi can enlist the support of government offices, especially at the provincial level which can help us with the necessary knowledge, skills and guidance even if they cannot provide us with actual financial contributions. It is important that we mobilise our communities to get them to work to improve on their conditions so that they can become the engine of their own development. Municipalities will not be able to bring about this type of bottom up development which will remain the responsibility of traditional leadership and, in the final analysis, the test on which traditional leadership will prove its final and unquestionable worth. We must list all the projects which we can promote amongst our people. These projects should be accepted by our people on the basis of the projects' own worth and I am sure that if they are really necessary and worthy projects, we will not need to make great efforts to motivate our people, for they themselves should be able to undertake them with enthusiasm and willingness.
However, I must stress that in our action we must maintain a healthy and conservative balance between primary and secondary projects. Primary projects must be focused on ensuring a large stream of available food supply. I cannot stress this point enough because I am very concerned about the future. World-wide we are facing a very severe recession which may last for ten years. Unemployment in South Africa is rising and it is perhaps at the worst level ever during my life-time. Our national currency, the rand, is devaluating day after day which will cause a dramatic reaction in foreign investments and the possible shrinkage of employment opportunities in urban areas. It is possible that many of our people who migrated to urban areas will return to our communities hungry, disappointed and frustrated. We need to ensure that food is available also to promote a new culture of better eating in our communities.
Maize, which is our staple diet, is expected to rise in price by 60 per cent. I ask the question: why should we fail to do what our people have never failed to do since time immemorial, which is producing our own maize for our own consumption? It is an absolute shame for us to purchase maize when we have stretches and stretches of land that is lying fallow. I realise that government has so far not made tractors available to us in spite of my appeals. But I do not think this is the only reason for this. I realise that we are a poor nation but there is no reason why we should not start co-operative societies, which would enable us to bear one another's burdens as far as this is concerned.
Amongst the many battles we must now face is that against HIV/AIDS. Many people in our communities are unfortunately affected by HIV and we need to ensure for them the best possible quality of life. It might take years before HIV turns into AIDS and the first symptoms appear. The length of time for this to happen also depends on the quality of nutrition. Moreover, when HIV turns into AIDS and people become susceptible to any possible disease because their immunisation system fails, their resistance will also depend on the quality of food they eat. We need to improve on the eating qualities of our people by ensuring that they eat more protein and more vegetables and do not rely only on a filling but not nutritious diet of mealie-meal. We need to have healthier, stronger and better fed people to survive the challenges ahead.
Like never before we are faced not by one enemy but by a group of enemies who are all lethal on their own account and together they pose the greatest threat ever faced by our nation. We are confronted by poverty, we are confronted by unemployment, we are confronted by HIV/AIDS, we are confronted by ignorance for lack of education, we are confronted by despair, we are confronted by many other evils which we see every day within our communities. We, as traditional leaders, are the only ones who can mobilise our people to take their fortunes into their own hands and begin fighting these enemies and improving on their lives through their own means.
We need to ensure that people learn from one another, train one another and capture as many training opportunities as possible, even when there is no opportunity for actual training. We need to call our people together and induce them to organise workshops and other occasions in which those who know can share their knowledge with others and people from outside can be brought in. We need to promote a campaign to increase knowledge, education and exposure to as many things as possible. We need to promote an environment in which people awaken their intelligence, curiosity and desire to learn, because only through learning will they be able to become better members of our communities and more capable of improving on their own personal and collective situation.
As we do all these things and perform all these efforts to ensure that our people are kept busy with work, are fed and properly educated, we must place a very particular emphasis on our children. In respect of everything, children require twice as much attention. They require twice as much food and twice as much education. We must ensure that our children play and not only work. Play is essential for their growth and the development of their intellectual and social skills. Even in the most poor conditions of our communities, nothing should ever stop children from playing. Often our children don't play because there is not enough around them to induce them to smile. If we care about our future, we must ensure that we as amaKhosi send out the message to our people that every day they should make a special effort to make their children smile. In the smile and laugh of our children lie the optimism which can change the world and which will empower them tomorrow to overcome indolence and impotence and take charge of their destiny. We must make our children laugh and play so that they may tomorrow become optimistic, enthusiastic and courageous adults who can provide for their own development.
Children should become a community responsibility. It has always been that way in the past but it must now be more so because of the larger number of orphans caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Children are our greatest value and assets and our communities must treasure their growth as it must protect them. We cannot accept violence against children in any way, shape or form. Violence against children is the worst type of violence against ourselves and is violence against our future and posterity. We must pay to our children much greater respect than anyone would wish to pay to our elders. Our children are our future assets and they are to be loved, not to be beaten and physically or verbally abused. We must overcome the erroneous perception that by abusing children they may grow. It is just not that way and any type of physical violence against children is nothing but violence which will not help them to grow into the type of citizens and adults we need if we wish to emancipate our nation from its enduring poverty and under-development. Most of all, we need to stop sexual violence against children.
My words cannot express the measure of condemnation which I have for any type of sexual violence and for that against children in particular. And words completely fail me if I have to express the way I feel about sexual violence against infants. This must be our first priority as amaKhosi to ensure that raping of children and infants stops at once. In this effort, we must stop anyone who continues to spread this idiotic and insulting notion that by raping a virgin one may be cured from HIV/AIDS or become immune to it. We must go after not only those who perpetrate such criminal acts, but also against those who put them up to it by spreading such a stupid notion, which is really below the intellect of anyone who aspires to call themselves a man or woman, rather than being a savage.
There are great challenges ahead of us and we as amaKhosi are perhaps the only ones who can confront them. We are not alone in this struggle but we are those who are called upon by destiny to lead it. If we take the initiative we will be able to call on the resources available in municipalities and in the provincial government. Also we will be able to mobilise the structures and resources of the Inkatha Freedom Party. However, we must accept that there has been a profound change of paradigm which forces us to act differently. We can no longer count on the type of support we had during the days of the KwaZulu Government where there was active co-operation between the government and Traditional Authorities. Now both the Party and the KwaZulu Natal Government will help us but we must lead in our efforts and enlist their assistance. We must do that which municipalities cannot do and work not against them but ahead of them. We must prove that traditional leadership is now more viable than ever by showing how much we can deliver by resorting to the greatest strength and wealth in our communities, which is our communities' own will to overcome present difficulties and succeed.
I am confident that amaKhosi will rise up to this challenge and succeed in proving that we are as noble and valiant warriors in the present struggle as our forefathers were in the many wars they had to endure. The terrain of these wars has now changed, but we are called upon to show the same measure of courage and leadership, and I know that in God's name, we shall be able to do so.