The Edward Hotel, Durban: 23 November 2011
I have lived in Mahlabathini for more than 80
years and the responsibilities of my various leadership
positions have caused me to spend a great deal of time driving
through this part of South Africa.
Over time I have noticed a change in the
landscape that worries me.
Where once the land in our rural areas was
cultivated and productive, much of the land now lies fallow.
Subsistence farming has largely been abandoned and people are
purchasing their food rather than growing it.
Many families who used to live off the land
are now dependent on social grants. Poverty is more visible,
more pressing and more of a threat than ever before, for the
problem of food security is increasing.
It was therefore a moment of great concern
when the Director General of Land Affairs announced in 2008 that
at least half of Government's land reform projects have failed
to permanently improve the quality of life of their
Since we obtained democracy in 1994,
significant efforts have been made by Government to rectify the
injustices of the past which saw rural development wholly
neglected and people being removed from fertile land. Seventeen
years into democracy, we should see a vastly improved situation
in terms of rural development, agricultural development and land
reform. Why then is food security an increasingly alarming
I wish to thank the Harvard Training Institute
for organizing this Indaba on Integrated Rural Development
Strategies, Urban Renewal and Land Reform. I appreciate their
foresight in securing contributions from Government, Traditional
Councils, the private sector, NGOs and the academia. This issue
demands a holistic approach and it would not benefit our
discussions to have traditional leaders talking amongst
themselves, while government officials talk amongst themselves,
and the academia talks in a different corner. We need a
cross-pollination of ideas.
As I speak, I am therefore aware that I am not
simply preaching to the converted. Traditional leaders are quite
aware of the limitations placed on us by legislation when it
comes to making decisions on issues that affect our own people.
But in a venue such as this, it is worth pointing out not only
how traditional leaders can promote sustainable rural
development, but also how preventing us from fulfilling this
role is detrimental to the future of South Africa.
Throughout the next three days, as we consider
our strategy to promote integrated rural development, our
discussions will no doubt touch upon issues of conservation and
the sustainable use of our natural resources. This is
unavoidable, not only because of the heightened public discourse
as we approach COP17 here in Durban, but because sustainable
development demands that we take into account the present and
future realities of our climate, environment and resources.
I have maintained a lifelong interest in
issues of conservation. My position as the traditional Prime
Minister of the Zulu Nation saw me drawn into this field at an
early stage, when talking about protecting our fauna and flora
was deemed frivolous and below the stature of a political
leader. In 1953, shortly after my installation as Inkosi of the
Buthelezi Clan in the Mahlabathini District, I was approached by
Dr Ian Player who was the senior conservator in the Natal Parks
Board. He worked as a ranger in the game reserves in
the northern part of KwaZulu Natal.
At the time, there was controversy among the
amaKhosi and the people in the Hlabisa District concerning the
so-called "corridor". It was difficult for our people to
understand why a stretch of land could be reserved for animals
when they themselves so desperately needed land on which to
live. In my capacity as Undunankulu, I was asked to intervene
and speak to the people. During many meetings we attempted to
resolve the dispute, and I appealed to my fellow compatriots,
the amaKhosi and their clansmen, to understand the importance of
what we would be preserving by protecting our game and having
Persuading our people about the importance of
conservation was made more difficult by the mindset of the
Apartheid regime that game reserves were the playground of white
people only. This created contempt for the notion of reserves.
Yet conservation and game reserves were a part of Zulu heritage
as far back as King Shaka kaSenzangakhona, who set aside land
for wildlife and instituted rigorous rules around hunting. The
biodiversity we enjoy in this province today is largely due to
But when it comes to conservation and rural
development, there is always a conflict of competing needs. Our
democratic Government of today faces a similar dilemma of how to
reconcile the vast and competing needs of South Africa in a
manner that is just, equitable and beneficial to our long-term
future. And as with every problem, the solution is constricted
by budget. Working within the allocated budget, the Department
of Rural Development and Land Reform must choose between
purchasing more land for emerging black farmers, or purchasing
less land in order to free up funding to support these farmers.
There is, of course, a danger in giving prime
agricultural land to people who have no means or capital to make
the land productive, or sustainably productive. But social
justice demands that land reform be expedited. How do we find
the balance? I believe that one of the overlooked tools to
solving this problem is the contribution that traditional
leaders can make within their communities.
Today many of our communities in KwaZulu Natal
are able to embrace projects of sustainable development simply
because of their background of self-help and self-reliance that
has been championed by traditional leaders. Our people are not
backward. I recently attended a lecture delivered by the Prince
of Wales, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, at the University
of Cape Town, and I was pleased to hear him speak about
honouring the traditional methods of farming within our rural
There is a trend of throwing the baby out with
the bath water when we try to modernise agricultural methods. We
sometimes feel it is only progress if we replace labour
intensive practices with machines. But machines are expensive
and difficult to maintain. They require new skills training and
decrease the number of jobs available. I am not saying
mechanisation is bad. But I am saying that there is value in
considering how we might return to old farming methods that
require greater manpower.
As I have said, our people are not backward
when it comes to working the land. We have reason to be
immensely proud of South African farmers. Our country relies on
some 600 high quality, large farms to produce our food and
export earnings. Our farmers are often highly skilled and
Indeed, the Government of the former Soviet
State of Georgia has invited South African farmers to buy
fertile land at very low prices in exchange for taking their
expertise and knowledge of modern farming methods to Georgia.
Georgia's State Minister for Diaspora, Mr Davitaya, has said,
"Boers are some of the best farmers in the world."
Initially, his Government sponsored
representatives from the Transvaal Agricultural Union South
Africa to visit Georgia to discuss agri-cooperation. Since then,
South African farmers and investors have paid their own way to
travel to Georgia and map a path for emigration.
This successful exchange program is
controversial, because it sends a clear message to our
Government that farmers are not valued as highly in our own
country as they ought to be. One cannot discount the impact of
the hate speech case against the President of the ANC Youth
League, who went to great lengths to defend his right to sing
"Shoot the Boer, Shoot the Farmer" at public gatherings. In
light of the high incidence of farm murders and violence against
our farmers, even debating whether we can sing songs like that
is unethical and obtuse.
Also controversial is the issue of land
expropriation without compensation, which the Youth League
President has also championed, saying, "If they don't want to
give the land over to us, we must take it without their
permission." It is not surprising that AfriForum has laid a
criminal charge against Mr Malema for incitement to sedition.
Having labelled whites as "thieves", he has
taken the fissure of racial tension and opened it into a chasm.
We must not be surprised to see productive, skilled and valuable
farmers leaving South Africa.
This is a serious concern for food security.
I do not envy the new MEC for Agriculture and
Rural Development, Dr Meshack Radebe. The onerous challenges
facing his Department demand a leadership of courage and
innovation. On behalf of the Inkatha Freedom Party, I wish him
strength and wisdom. I also hope that he will see the value in
strengthening the partnership between his Department and the
various structures of traditional leadership. This partnership
must also be strengthened within the Department of Cooperative
Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Within the national Department of Cooperative
Governance and Traditional Affairs, the mandate of Traditional
Affairs is to "Promote and coordinate research and information
management and the development of policies and legislation on
traditional affairs. (And to) Coordinate institutional
development and capacity building programmes to enhance
efficiency and effectiveness within the institution of
However Traditional Affairs enjoys less than
0.2% of the budget of the Department of Cooperative Governance
and Traditional Affairs, which suggests that "traditional
affairs" is really an afterthought.
In terms of the 2011/2012 budget, our Government spends
more money providing "strategic advice" for the media
development of provincial and local government than we do
building capacity and developing policy around traditional
To traditional leaders, this is not
surprising, for we have witnessed the institution of traditional
leadership being sidelined for decades while the powers,
functions and role of traditional leaders are increasingly
diminished. There is an unspoken attitude within Government that
sees traditional leadership and all its institutions as remnants
of the past which are bound to fade away as modernity and
development march in.
It has been frustrating for us to witness the
deterioration of government's commitment to Amakhosi over the
years. In 2005, President Thabo Mbeki spoke to the National
House of Traditional Leaders and said, "Traditional leadership
is an institution of our people, and as such, government stands
ready and willing to collaborate with you so that it becomes
stronger and is better able to serve our people." But just five
years later, President Zuma said, "Traditional leaders have a
key role to play as partners with government - government will
work closely with traditional leaders in the implementation of
The Coalition of Traditional Leaders fought
hard to ensure the survival of the powers and functions of
traditional leadership through the various waves of local
government reform. Unfortunately the debates, vision and
cohesiveness of that Coalition did not carry over in any
significant way into parliamentary activities.
On the 30th of November 2000, on the eve of
the Local Government Elections, a delegation of the Coalition of
Traditional Leaders had a day-long negotiating meeting with an
ad hoc Cabinet Committee led by the then Deputy President, Mr
Jacob Zuma, and comprising all the relevant line function
Ministers, including the Minister for Local Government and
At that time a formal agreement was entered
into in terms of which traditional leaders undertook not to
boycott the Local Government Elections in consideration of the
formal promise received that Chapters 7 and 12 of the
Constitution would be amended to ensure that the powers and
functions of Traditional Leaders would not be obliterated by the
implementation of the Municipal Structures Act and other
Nine years later, on the 26th of August 2009,
a Member of Parliament, Mr Peter Smith, asked President Zuma in
the National Assembly when Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution
would be amended as promised on the 30th of November 2000.
President Zuma's response was that the undertaking that was made
to amend the Constitution was merely a recommendation and not a
solemn agreement. And he added that the Cabinet did not accept
I immediately pointed out that I too was in
Cabinet at that time, as the Minister of Home Affairs, and while
I incessantly raised the need to discuss and implement this
promise, I could not remember it having been discussed in
Cabinet at all. I then stated in Parliament my distress over
seeing my country governed through deception.
Traditional leaders delivered on their promise
and supported the elections, and the person who signed on the
dotted line to execute Government's promise is now our country's
The need for a constitutional amendment arose
because, although the interim Constitution placed indigenous and
customary law on the same level as provincial law, the final
Constitution left the matter in limbo, allowing legislation to
give municipalities all the powers and functions of traditional
leaders. Today Section 80 of the Municipal Structures Act
enables traditional leaders to attend council meetings, but does
not even extend to them the vote. This does not reflect the
spirit of cooperative governance that we sought to achieve. It
is not a genuine partnership.
In 1995, under the leadership of its then
Minister of Local Government, Inkosi NJ Ngubane, this Province
put forward a comprehensive draft White Paper on Traditional
Leadership which began from the premises of the unity of a
traditional community as a specific model of societal
organisation. That premise leads to the conclusion that the
jurisdiction of traditional leadership should be primary rather
than residual, on the basis of the principal of subsidiarity,
which means that on matters regulated by indigenous and
customary law, other laws should not apply unless and until
there is a constitutional imperative.
As traditional leaders, we had something that
worked, was fair and produced good results for our people. But
Government sought to chop and change it into something different
and is now grappling with the problems, contradictions and
difficulties it has created. In the end, it is our people who
I am not suggesting that the institution of
traditional leadership is or should have remained static.
Nothing is static at any given time and nothing could be static
during these rapidly changing times. The issue is whether
necessary change should come from within or should be imposed
from without. The institution of traditional leadership has not
been allowed to change and progress from within on the strength
of community dynamics, demands and changing times. Instead,
change has been forced onto traditional communities in a top
down and uniform approach, which is pregnant with unforeseeable,
Since 1994, South Africa has been obsessed
with uniformity, which is one of the reasons indigenous and
customary law has been ignored, as it is necessarily diverse
from one province to another. Wanting to regulate traditional
leadership and jurisdiction into a uniform mould is wrong and
smacks of forced acculturalization. It also carries the
consequence of having to mould a new institution on the basis of
the minimum common denominator given by places and realities in
which the institution does not work as well as it does in
KwaZulu Natal, or does not have equally strong and effective
traditions. We find all this wrong, and cannot help objecting to
Traditional leaders have participated in a
number of consultative processes relating to their position in
local government structures.
But our input was only sought after the draft
legislation had been formulated and policies were already
established. In the end, the massive input provided by
traditional leaders did not produce any tangible change to what
had already been decided, in spite of numerous promises having
been made at the highest level of government that the
aspirations of traditional leaders would be accommodated.
In the entire long process of local government
policy formulation, traditional leaders have been consulted in a
purely perfunctory manner, more for the purpose of letting us
know what was going to be done with our institution than to seek
our input. This is similar to how the old Apartheid regime used
to deal with us.
The fact is that traditional communities are
specific models of societal organisation built around indigenous
and customary law, the law which shapes daily life and the
organisation of society.
Traditional leadership has the expression of
the self-governance of the community in respect of both
executive and judicial matters, and communal property as the
binding factor of the community and their shared ownership and
interest. There cannot be one without the other and one cannot
be separated from the other.
Unfortunately, instead of following a unitary
policy and legislative approach which would recognise and
protect traditional communities as a specific model of societal
organisation, our government has taken a piecemeal approach in
which it has sought to slot the various components of
traditional leadership into the existing legal system developed
by Western values and principles.
Accordingly, traditional leaders were slotted
into the mould of municipal government; land was slotted into
the system of centralised government administration; and
traditional jurisdiction was slotted into the overall judicial
system, leaving indigenous law in limbo.
This is the same approach used under indirect
colonial rule and indirect Apartheid oppression, except that
both such foreign systems had a much greater respect for our
African law than is the case for our own Black Government.
Under Apartheid, traditional councils operated
on the basis of levies.
But under a democratic Government, such levies
have been abolished. In their place, no provision is made to
fund traditional councils.
Indeed, there is no budget allocated to
traditional councils; there is no budget allocated to the
National House of Traditional Leaders; nor to the Provincial
Houses, nor the Houses at local level. This issue of our Houses
having no budget has severely curtailed the effectiveness of
I have spoken in the national House of
Parliament about the absence of a budget for our Local House,
which forces me to ask my wife to provide refreshments whenever
we meet. The Honourable Minister of Cooperative Governance and
Traditional Affairs was shocked to hear this. Yet still the
status quo has not changed. If we cannot even employ a secretary
or get a phone line, how can we implement even the most
visionary rural development initiatives?
I have focused largely on agricultural aspects
of rural development.
But rural development encompasses
infrastructural development, skills training, social assistance,
education, investment and environmental policies. One aspect
worth considering in this venue is that of financial assistance
to entrepreneurs and emerging farmers.
As Minister of Economic Affairs and Chief
Minister in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, I founded the
KwaZulu Finance Corporation, and through it I founded the ITHALA
Bank, to give access to loans to those whom commercial banks
would not assist, as they could provide no security. In this
way, many valuable development projects and businesses were
started. Today, unfortunately, Ithala Bank has lost its vision
to corruption and has been pillaged by the greed of the rich and
Following the global economic recession and
the continued high prices of food, fuel and electricity, small
businesses are hard pressed to stay afloat. South Africa's high
rate of unemployment demands that we create an environment in
which small businesses can prosper. Rural development depends to
a large extent on the contribution of civil society and
business. I am always pleased to see businessmen approach
traditional leaders with development proposals, for such
partnerships have less bureaucratic red tape and greater
Just as I brought the community of Hlabisa on
board with conservation initiatives in 1953, traditional leaders
are uniquely positioned to ensure that communities embrace the
development projects of today, and also benefit from them. It is
vital that communities take ownership of development
initiatives, in order for them to be sustainable. I believe we
can improve the track record of success in rural development by
empowering traditional leaders to become part of the
decision-making process in a real and substantive way.
On 19 July 2011, the Acting Minister for
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister
Mthethwa, spoke at the Jewish Centre in Durban. In his opening
statement, he said, "For many years the affairs and institutions
of traditional leadership remained in the periphery of
development. That situation often led to marginalisation of
traditional leaders and their institutions with regard to
meaningfully influencing the critical policy and programmatic
matters pertaining to development .The consequence thereof has
been that the communities that live under traditional
leadership, most of whom reside in rural areas, have had their
development needs not given the necessary and sustained
attention as they ought to be given."
He made the statement that, "Strong relations
between elected representatives and traditional leadership are
the cornerstone of service delivery." Those are visionary words.
But unless traditional leaders are empowered by legislation and
funding to do what we are capable of doing, communities in our
rural areas will continue to bear the brunt of underdevelopment
and development initiatives that fail to truly uplift our