The Master of Ceremonies; His Majesty the King of the Zulu Nation; the Hon Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr LPHM Mtshali; the Hon. Mrs FX Gasa, Minister of Education and Culture in KwaZulu Natal and other Honourable KwaZulu Natal Ministers present; members of the diplomatic corps; members of the Royal House and amaKhosi present; members of the provincial Legislature; His Worship the Mayor of Durban, Councillor Obed Mlaba; other Mayors present; Councillors present; Indunas present; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

On this important day, we celebrate the seventh anniversary of a turning point in our struggle for genuine freedom and liberation. It is proper and fitting that we consider how far we have gone and how far we still have to go before we can fulfil the promise that South Africa made that one day all its children will be free from poverty, fear, ignorance for lack of knowledge and education and abject social and economic conditions. We fought in our struggle for liberation to give freedom to all not just to empower a few. On April 27, 1994 we held the first democratic elections to empower the majority of our people to vote to make a difference in the lives of the majority of our people. We sought to establish a democracy to benefit the people who supported it. Today, after seven years, we must take stock of how much has been done to achieve such a goal.

The struggle for genuine liberation from need and fear remains still long and the road to its success, uphill. Thus far we have achieved preliminary stages and set in place the conditions for further achievement. The most important of such preliminary conditions was that of consolidating reconciliation. The road to reconciliation has been long and still far from having been completed. For several decades our people have been divided by fratricidal conflicts which have shed blood, suffering and destruction across our land. The first priority of democracy was that of achieving reconciliation. Reconciliation does not come without a price and we accepted that a price had to be paid to ensure that all the people of KwaZulu Natal could finally look at one another as brothers and sisters and not enemies divided by hate, ancient feuds and suspicion. For the past seven years we have sought to unify our Province of KwaZulu Natal in a common vision and a shared leadership. However, the road to reconciliation remains uncertain.

Without having completed reconciliation, it will be difficult to move towards the next and most important stage of our struggle for liberation, which is that of delivery of essential services and development. Many of the obstacles which stand on the path of reconciliation are as relevant now as they were seven years ago when the first democratic elections were held. They are not surfacing now for the first time as a seventh year itch of an uneasy marriage. Indeed, we shall never forget that the first democratic elections in South Africa were held seven years ago because a mere ten days before elections, we found a precarious solution. In fact we did not remove or solve the problems, but only found a way to gloss over the unresolved problems which stood in the way of holding elections and beginning the path of reconciliation.

All inclusive and free democratic elections could not have been held seven years ago because the negotiations leading to them had left unresolved and untouched the fundamental issues of the Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal, inclusive of the position of its amaKhosi, and a broad range of constitutional issues. It was agreed that in spite of these issues being unresolved, elections would be held and that such issues would be settled as soon as possible after elections by virtue of international mediation. This promise which was embodied in a solemn Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace which former President Mandela, the then State President FW de Klerk and I signed, was breached and remains dishonoured. The underlying issues remain unresolved.

I keep my eyes firmly focused on the goals I had awaiting the new stage of our struggle for liberation. I keep my eyes firmly focused on the struggle for development, development and development. However, I am spending sleepless nights now as I did seven years ago, when I felt that all the gains of many years of negotiations for democracy would have been obliterated as we neared the abyss of an insoluble deadlock. I now spend sleepless nights because I know that the problem of traditional authorities and that of our Kingdom which has been glossed over for so long has now come to the surface in all its tragedy. I know that if this problem is not solved, the gains we have thus far achieved on the path of reconciliation could be forfeited and the delivery of essential services to the poorest of the poor in rural areas where the poorest of the poor live, will be impaired for many years to come. This is not an issue which affects rural areas alone, but indeed the whole of our Province and the entire South Africa. Social unrest and a crisis in our rural areas will easily reverberate on our cities, causing many of the gains of democracy to soon disappear like mist before the sun.

I am mentioning these matters not to dampen the enthusiasm of our celebrations today of the blessings of democracy which we achieved seven years ago. I am doing so because having been deployed by the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology, Dr BS Ngubane, to represent our government in my own province, I feel compelled to share with all those whom I have regarded as my brothers and sisters, the obstacles I see in the fulfilment of the objectives that together we have held dear for so many years. In this Province we have gone a long way together and in the past years we have learned to grow even closer together and to work even better together, and together to better understand one another in spite of existing cultural, social and political divides, which day after day are becoming less relevant.

Democracy in KwaZulu Natal is perhaps stronger and more vibrant than anywhere else in our continent. We have a provincial Parliament which in spite of its many conflicts and difficulties, offers an example of real democracy at work with a variety of viewpoints constantly confronting one another. We still have difficulties but have formed a platform on which we can consolidate the gains we achieved seven years ago. We cannot allow the gains and achievements which are awaiting us to be jeopardised by the legacy of unresolved problems, such as that of traditional leadership. Problems must be solved so that we can begin moving ahead with the real struggle which is that of freeing our people from the enslavement of abject material conditions and poverty, and the plague of bigotry, ignorance and fear which are narrowing the spiritual and intellectual horizons of our people.

We need to free the minds of our people and empower their lives with knowledge, skills, job opportunities and better material conditions. This task can no longer await future developments. The agenda for development must now become the primary, if not the only, concern of our fledgling democracy. Our democracy must express a leadership capable of not only embracing the agenda for development but embodying it in all its aspects. We must develop rural areas, and we must foster economic growth in the power engine and financial sectors of South Africa. Our democracy must now turn the country to work and transform it into a factory in which its progress and future social and economic success, is manufactured on a daily basis in each of our families, work-places and communities.

I fear that all the things I predicted concerning some of the strategies we used during our liberation, have become a fulfilled prophecy. Everything that we are all determined to do for our people right across all the political divides, will not happen if the issue of the role of traditional leaders in local government is not resolved. This issue has resulted in a lot of obfuscation and in us watching the spectacle of just an exchange of false promises. I fear that we will very soon face the moment of truth. The truth of the matter is that there is no way that delivery to our people can take place unless traditional authorities spearhead development in traditional areas.

AmaKhosi and the majority of our local Councillors in rural areas met on the 20th of January 2001. They sent a message to the President stating that in order to avoid conflict, they plead for a swift resolution of the concerns of traditional authorities before they start working. They again met on the 20th of this very month and IFP Councillors stated after that meeting, that if this issue is not resolved within a month, they will stop all their activities in traditional areas. When I look at the cavalier manner in which the whole issue has been handled at national level, I am filled with gloomy foreboding that all the gains that we have achieved in the last seven years are in danger of being completely wiped out, and our country will then slide into an abyss. We need to protect the fledgling democracy that we have all worked for right across all political parties. This will not be done by playing the games that have been played for so long with traditional leaders at national level. We are now all determined to see development in our country.

Seven years after its beginning, the time has come for our democracy to turn the page and embrace the struggle for development, development and development.



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