MEETING WITH COMMUNITIES OF
Northern Province: NOVEMBER 27, 2000
I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet with the communities of Kgosi Langa and Inkosi Kekana at this crucial juncture in the history of South Africa. At this point, just eight days before our local government elections, I feel it is important that we strengthen and continue the dialogue which I have maintained with the communities of this region for many years. Now is the time for us to come together and consider the way forward based on the events of the past few months. The time has come to set our course according to the continuing needs of South Africa, recognising that genuine liberation has not yet been achieved and there is much left to do to lift the burden of poverty, unemployment, criminality, and ignorance for lack of education.
The challenges which lie ahead can be conquered in one way and one way only, with development, development, development. I know that the Makgosi of this province and throughout South Africa, have a vital role to play in the pursuit and achievement of this goal. Development in rural areas hinges upon the extent to which our traditional leaders will be allowed to exercise their role, powers and functions under the new local government system. For decades, Traditional Leaders have been the engine of development within community life and have performed wonders in spite of having almost no resources available to them. The new system of local government will finally make resources available for governance at the local level. These resources should not be made available to municipalities only, but should also be directed towards traditional leadership so that much more can now be achieved for traditional communities.
As the catalysts of community consensus, Traditional Leaders have ensured that development can take place at the community level driven by collective efforts, by the will and with the consent of the people. Therefore, especially when greater resources will be available for development in rural areas, the future pace and degree of community development depends upon the future of our Traditional Leaders.
It is for this reason that I have taken a firm stand in support of the preservation and promotion of the role, powers and functions of Traditional Leaders and traditional authorities. I spoke up during negotiations on the constitutional text on this very issue, never backing down in the face of opposition from government and some political leaders. Determined to see this crucial issue properly addressed, I signed the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace which committed the then State President, FW de Klerk, and former President Nelson Mandela, to seek international mediation on outstanding issues, among which was the recognition of the institutions of traditional leadership as part of our Kingdom. However, in the end, this commitment meant little to President Mandela who failed to honour the Agreement.
This was the first ominous indication of an absence of political will to address the issue of traditional leadership which had for so long been postponed, ignored and glossed over. The final Constitution was adopted, listing the local government powers and functions as competencies of municipalities only, which would be established following local government elections, with no provision made for powers and functions of traditional authorities. The very powers and functions listed have been exercised by traditional authorities in our communities for generations. Thus a clash of powers and functions between traditional authorities and municipalities became imminent, posing a threat to the institution of traditional leadership.
Now, on the eve of local government elections, this threat has not yet been averted despite continuous and determined efforts to do so by all Traditional Leaders. After many years of intense consultations, finally Traditional Leaders from all over South Africa are now working together in a cohesive and united coalition. It is very concerning that the government has chosen not to respect Traditional Leaders. It is a terrible thing for the future of South Africa that we are moving into a new local government dispensation which does not respect the very leaders and institutions that our people have respected since time immemorial. This is the very foundation of the contempt and disdain that we see in South Africa today, and the foundation of the lawlessness that we are currently experiencing in our country.
It is very concerning that we are opening a new phase of local government in rural areas with such an act of disrespect and that we are beginning a new chapter of our history by placing the powers and functions of traditional authorities in a direct clash with those of newly elected municipalities. This clash should have been averted and should have been solved. We have spent the past eleven months trying to find a solution to this issue, but with little or no result. While the imminent clash of powers and functions is obvious from the constitution, it has taken ten months of negotiations to achieve recognition of this fact by government. It is now clear that Traditional Leaders have been strung along in a protracted game of deliberate obfuscation and procrastination. On December 5, the institution of traditional leadership is set to be reduced to a window-dressing of community life because nothing has been done when it was vitally important to act.
On various occasions, the Coalition of Traditional Leaders has met with the President, the Deputy President, and representatives of the Department of Provincial and Local Government in an attempt to exact a solution to what shall, in eight days, become a national crisis. After dedicated perseverance and much hard work, it was finally admitted that a problem exists, and the President established a technical committee to consider how the issue could be solved. We received a promise from President Thabo Mbeki that he would personally ensure the protection of the role, powers and functions of traditional leadership and, if necessary, would amend the Constitution to do so. He promised to do this in a letter addressed to Inkosi Mzimela, the Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, which the President signed.
In spite of the work of the technical committee, the Director-General of the Department of Provincial and Local Government, Mr Zam Titus, maintained that no clash was in fact imminent as the powers and functions of Traditional Leaders had been obliterated with the adoption of the final Constitution. We were told that Traditional Leaders no longer had any role, powers or functions to protect and that the pursuit of a solution to the obvious threat was therefore irrelevant. This shows the measure of disrespect and contempt with which certain government officials have been dealing with the institution of traditional leadership. This was also both bizarre and untrue. Traditional Leaders held fast to the promise given by the President himself that had any powers or functions of traditional leadership indeed been infringed upon or lost, they would be restored. Trusting in the word of the President, we continued our negotiations.
This has been a long and bitter battle for Traditional Leaders for we are not fighting out of ambition, but for the sake of our communities and our country. We are aware of the vital role traditional leadership must play in securing the development of our people. Without development, we shall never turn the tide on the rising levels of unemployment and criminality. The fight against social evils is concerned with changing the perceptions and circumstances of people. If we take away the established, trusted and known leadership of South Africans, we will have taken an immeasurable step backwards in the cause of social upliftment and human growth.
I have always called for the commencement of a revolution of goodwill which empowers people to improve on their conditions of life by themselves, through themselves, and for themselves. People cannot wait for government alone to come and bring about a change for the better. People have waited too long and suffered too much. We have suffered, suffered and suffered while waiting, waiting and waiting, and throughout people have been showered with promises, promises and promises. The time has come for people to take charge of their own destinies and begin to promote development from the ground up. The fact that government will finally make resources available for governance at the local level which were never available before, will create a stepping stone for development if the people have the goodwill to jump-start their own development through their own activities. We need a change of attitude and a genuine revolution of goodwill to make this happen.
However, it is useless for me to come into the poorest communities of this country and call for a revolution of goodwill when the people are about to be stripped of the leaders of our revolution. This revolution is not one which comes out of chaos and disorder, but it is an organised effort of building bridges, constructing relationships and developing a patriotic passion to see our country succeed. Without leaders, we are a group of people who want change. With our leaders, we are a structured army of goodwill which can bring change into reality and make a difference to the way things are done.
It is essential that in the next elections people make their voice heard. The next elections are an opportunity for the people to give a new beginning to our efforts for development in rural areas. It is important that people vote and that as many people as possible go to the voting stations. If people donít vote, things will continue to go in the same direction. I have come here today to ask for your support. If I and my Party receive the massive support of the people of this region, a powerful message will be heard throughout the country that things must now be done differently.
For too long things have been done the wrong way, which was their way. The time has now come to turn things around and begin doing it our way, which is the right way. People must go to the polling stations to support the struggle of Traditional Leaders and support the struggle for development. We need to strengthen this struggle by strengthening the only political party which has constantly supported traditional leadership and development in rural areas, without ambivalence, without reservations, and with total commitment and dedication.
This is not a matter which should surprise anyone in communities such as this. Throughout my life I have lived amongst the poorest of the poor. I have never left the country and never abandoned our communities or given up the struggle. I and my Party were born in rural communities, grew up in rural communities, and have always operated in rural communities. We have never abandoned our communities. We have never led our people from abroad. We have never put the interests of rural communities behind those of communities in urban areas.
We have never felt the liberation struggle was complete merely because some of our leaders finally achieved power and assumed high-ranking positions in Cape Town and Pretoria. For us the struggle has never stopped and, if anything, it has become more and more intense by the day because the needs of our people are becoming more desperate. It is dramatic, but it is a truth which we must face, that as never before our rural people are now confronted with hunger, disease, crime and social unrest.
We have one chance for a new beginning and that is the opportunity to create a system of rural local government which works for the people in this area, and for our communities, rather than becoming a puppet whose strings are pulled from far away in Cape Town or Pretoria. We are here. We want to govern from here, where we are sure that we can take the right decisions to promote our development. We must have the resources necessary to make this happen. Only by having a massive turn-out at the next elections will we be able to speak with a powerful voice which sends a different message to the one which people in Pretoria and Cape Town have heard before.
This time around, it is important that people show their support for me and my Party, and do so in such a resounding fashion that we can turn the tide and usher in a new beginning. We must support the struggle of our Traditional Leaders. We must support the struggle for development. We must support the revolution of goodwill. Only in this fashion will we be able to begin building our own future by ourselves, without waiting for others to fulfil promises which never materialise.
I call on all of you to begin organising as many people as possible to go to the voting stations on the 5th of December, just eight days from now. Donít vote alone, but bring all your friends with you and make sure that they all share your enthusiasm in giving the country a new beginning which starts from here, from our rural communities. The time has come to bring power to the rural areas. Too much power has been located in urban areas and too much care has been taken of the interests of people living in affluent urban segments. We need more attention for the poorest of the poor and for the development of rural areas. The next elections must put this right by making the statement that rural people are now going to be heard and to be counted. The people are rallying behind our Traditional Leaders under the flag of the struggle for development. A massive vote in support of Traditional Leaders will resound throughout the land stating that henceforth rural areas can no longer be neglected.
We have a long and uphill road ahead. However, if we walk it together by working together, struggling together, and together promoting our development, we shall succeed in finally bringing prosperity and stability to our rural areas. One day, the spectres of malnutrition, unemployment and a lack of education, will forever be gone if we decide today that we are going to have a new beginning. South Africa stands at a crossroads between a leisurely downhill path towards more unemployment, more poverty, more criminality and more suffering, and an uphill and hard path which leads to prosperity and stability.
I wish for people to vote and support me so that together we can take the uphill and hard path which will eventually bring us to freedom. We have clearly seen in the past six years that things have not improved substantially. We must now turn things around and make sure it is done the way it ought to have been done since the beginning, which is our way, the right way. We must take the uphill path and begin the struggle for development. Now is the time and now is the opportunity. If we miss this opportunity there will just not be another one in which to make such a significant impact not only on our own future, but on the future of our children and our childrenís children.