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Opening address by H.E. David Mabuza, Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa to the annual Opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders

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Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Nkosikazi Mhlauli: Ah! NoSandi!;
Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Kgosi Seatlholo: Rapulana!;
Speaker of the National Assembly;
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces;
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs;
Amakhosi NaMakhosikazi;
Members of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;
Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of Provincial Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;
Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
President and Deputy President of CONTRALESA;
Chairperson of the National Khoi-San Council;
Directors-General;
Distinguished Guests;
 
It is an honour and privilege to address this 6th Annual Opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders this morning. This august House remains an embodiment of our collective history, heritage and a common sense of national identity as the people of this country. 
 
It is an important affirmation of our constitutional and democratic dispensation that embeds the leadership role of traditional leaders in our society as Africans.   
 
It is an opportunity to reflect, and shape collective action towards resolving complex developmental issues confronting traditional communities.
 
As venerated leaders of our people in communities, there is an unmistakable expectation from the people that your presence in this National House carries possibilities for the practical realisation of their hopes, dreams and aspirations. It is a trust that cannot be betrayed.  
 
Before we delve into these issues, allow us Chairperson to congratulate you on your recent election as the Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders. 
 
Your election has gone down in history as a momentous event that contributes in breaking prevalent limitations for women leaders to ascend to higher positions of authority. This is a living testament to our nation’s aspiration to uphold the principles and rights of equality as espoused by the Constitution. 
 
We have utmost confidence in your leadership and look forward to working with you in navigating prevailing challenges facing society including unemployment, poverty and inequality as well as various other social ills.
 
Equally, we congratulate Kgosi Seatlholo for being elected to the position of Deputy Chairperson of this House. Coming from the young generation of traditional leaders, his election will certainly contribute in bringing to the fore, the perspective of young people in matters being championed by the National House.
 
The combination of the two leaders will make a mark in the transformation of the sector. 
 
Chairperson 
 
While we celebrate this great feat in the election of the two leaders, we equally bow our heads to pay tribute to the fallen members of the institution of Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership, who passed on since we met for the last opening of the National House. 
 
In this regard, we convey our sincerest condolences to this House on the passing of Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, a leader who was consistent, principled, solutions-oriented and steadfast in raising various issues of development that concern society and traditional communities. 
 
Our words of condolence also go to the Zulu Royal Family for the passing of His Majesty King ZwelithinikaBhekuzulu who left us an indelible legacy in his spirited efforts and actions in the fight against HIV and AIDS, and the preservation of our heritage. Our condolences in this regard, also go to the family on the passing of Her Majesty, the Regent Queen Mantfombi.
 
Similarly, we extend our condolences to the royal families of Queen Noloyiso Sandile of AmaRharhabeKingdom, and most recently, Inkosi Ngangomhlaba Matanzima of AbaThembu on their passing on. 
 
Their departure leaves a void - for they possessed the necessary wisdom in enriching our discourse on matters of development in society and traditional communities. 
 
We also acknowledge members of Traditional Leadership who lost their lives due to other acts of criminality and violence in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.   
 
Chairperson 
 
We meet today at a challenging time in our country, where the rate of unemployment has been on a rise andfurther deepening inequality. Of course, this is compounded by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that has not only led to the loss of lives, but also led to the closure and scaling down of many business operations leading to loss of livelihoods for many. 
 
In this regard, we wish to applaud the unity of purpose and seamless collaboration between public and private sectors in tackling the pandemic, and in ensuring access to healthcare for all affected. 
 
Our healthcare system proved its resilience, and it ensured that we are able to bounce back and embark on a path to recovery. Although the number of infections and fatalities has declined, the fight against Covid-19 is not yet over as the threat of its resurgence still remains. 
 
That is why as social partners, we must solidify our partnerships and collaboration in driving Covid-19 vaccination in order to get the country back to normalcy, and open up the economy to reverse the losses caused by the impact of the coronavirus. 
 
In this regard, as Government we look to the partnership with the institution of Traditional and Khoi-San leadership to sharpen our efforts of economic recovery and reconstruction. 
 
We have no doubt that with economic recovery and reconstruction measures that Government is implementing, these challenges will ultimately be overcome.
 
We also meeting at a time when social ills like Gender-Based Violence and Femicide including the abuse and violation of the girl-child, continue to confront us as a nation. So are the cases of ritual killings especially of people with albinism.
 
Let us be clear that acts of gender based violence undermine all our efforts of building a united and prosperous society. The measure of any nation is how women and children are being treated. We cannot be a society that regresses and has no regard for the rights of women. 
 
We raise these issues sharply as we do, comfortable that members of this House, possess distinct wisdom that is drawn from the people in various Makgotla and Izimbizo held within their communities. 
 
In our view, Traditional and Khoi-San leaders must stand up and fight all that divides us as a people. We should work together as partners in efforts of building a united South Africa. Such a fight must also be directed at the cancer of racism, tribalism and regionalism that is rearing its ugly head. 
 
Chairperson 
 
It is through collaboration between Government and Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders that we will be able to make faster progress in finding solutions to prevailing challenges that confront our communities. With a unified sense of purpose and direction, we stand a better chance to make a positive impact on the lives of our people in traditional communities.
 
In essence, the expectation from the people is that we collectively act as guardians of our constitutional values, democratic cultures and practices in pursuit of their right to development. 
 
When unity is a cornerstone of our partnership, no challenge is insurmountable. 
 
As Government we acknowledge the issues and challenges raised by AmaKhosi and Khoi-San Leaders, which, in the main, are about the strengthening of this key institution, and placing it at the heart of development of traditional communities to be on par with the rest of the country. 
 
Among other key issues you have raised, we have heard your calls on the need:
 
• to resolve the land question, 
• to improve road infrastructure to connect communities and enable economic activities including facilitating access to essential services
• to invest in rural development, 
• to rollout access to water and sanitation, 
• to turn Great Places into heritage sites for the promotion of tourism in traditional communities, and 
• to ensure access to information, communication and technology.
 
Looked at collectively, these issues find expression in the programmes outlined in the State of the Nation address by the President.
 
However, as we all know, in its nature the State of the Nation Address does not go into detail, but provides an overarching Programme of Action of Government for the year ahead.
 
We will hear more on the details as we engage in a series of dialogues with Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders that will be led by the Office of the Deputy President and supported by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.  
 
This will build on the conversations already held with traditional leaders, traditional health practitioners and interfaith leaders in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga as part of our Policy-in-Action initiatives under the auspices of the South African National AIDS Council. 
 
Chairperson
 
While we concede that some of the issues you have raised have taken long to deal with and resolve, we re-affirm Government’s commitment to prioritising these issues for quick resolution. 
At the apex of Government, we can assure you that the commitment is unwavering.
 
In our efforts to comprehensively address these issues, the President has established the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to respond to issues raised by Traditional Leaders.
 
This Task Team is chaired by the Deputy President and comprises the Ministers of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; Public Works and Infrastructure; Police; Mineral Resources and Energy; Finance; Health; Sport, Arts and Culture; and Justice and Correctional Services.
 
The Task Team will endeavour to address all the issues raised by the institution of Traditional and Khoi-San leaders over the years to advance development in their respective communities. 
 
As have already acknowledged that some of the issues have taken long to resolve. However, we are confident that the process we have chosen, will bear fruits. That is why we appeal to all sections of this institution to afford the unfolding process, space and opportunity to work on the issues at hand. 
 
In taking some of these issues forward, the Task Team will utilise available instruments including the District Development Model as an appropriate and  implementation tool for investment in rural areas. 
 
We believe that each of our communities has a unique set of endowments which, if unlocked, can lead to sustainable and shared growth for those communities. 
 
Our ability to realise development in society, requires partnership with institutions of Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership as agencies of the people. At a policy level, we continue to implement enabling legislation for the benefit of this institution. 
 
In this regard, the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, which provides for Traditional Councils to be constituted, has come into effect as indicated last year. This has been a matter of concern to the institution. 
 
To this end, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has gazetted a formula for constituting Traditional Councils, which will pave the way for the election and appointment of members to these Councils. 
 
 
We look forward to the Minister and the Members of the Provincial Executive Councils responsible for Traditional Affairs, providing the necessary infrastructure, logistical and capacity enhancement needs of these Councils.
 
The Commission on Khoi-San Matters that is meant to facilitate the recognition of qualifying Khoi-San leaders, was established  in September 2021. 
 
In this regard, we wish to congratulate Professor Nico Botha on his appointment as the Chairperson of the Commission and Mr Douglas Bennet as the Deputy Chairperson. 
 
Commissioners Botha and Bennet together with the team bring a wealth of knowledge and experience on the history, culture, and heritage of these important Khoi-San communities, which has been obscure for far too long. 
 
Because we are a nation that understands that our past is an important feature in moulding our shared future, we pledge to provide all the support necessary to the Commission as it undertakes the important and ground-breaking work which includes documenting this history and the consideration of applications for the recognition of Khoi-San leaders.
 
Our heritage and cultural practices are central to the ethos and development of our nation. 
 
Through such recognition, Khoi-San leaders will for the first time in our history formally take up their positions to lead their respective communities. 
 
As we practice our cultures and traditions, we must seek at all times to protect the inalienable right to life and dignity; for such rights cannot be limited or suspended under any circumstances. 
 
As Government, we remain concerned about the continued incidents of death of our young people who participate in customary initiation, particularly in the Province of the Eastern Cape. 
 
Customary initiation should serve as a rite of passage for our young people, and as such, it is practice that should embrace evolving methods of modern science to prevent any loss of lives. 
 
The Customary Initiation Act that came into effect in September 2021, will assist in improving the situation and promote safe initiation practices in our communities. We also call upon parents who send their children to initiation schools, to ensure that such schools are registered.

Part of the ongoing dialogue we are having with the Houses and Leaders of institutions of Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership, is how we could use these schools to shape the young boys into agents of change in combating Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. 
 
We believe that the programme is very critical to ensuring that the boy-child is raised respecting and protecting women. The Traditional Men’s Parliament that is led by the National House, also remains critical in the advancement of moral regeneration initiatives. 
 
Chairperson
 
Our constitutional, legislative and governance architecture affirms the centrality of traditional leadership institutions in the development of traditional communities to advance the progressive realisation of socio-economic rights, and tackle poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment challenges. 
 
Inevitably, the role of traditional leaders should never be limited only to ceremonial and cultural responsibilities, but should be seen in the broader context of daily struggles of ordinary people in the search for a better quality of life, access to economic opportunities, improved infrastructure for service delivery, as well as quality health and education outcomes. 
 
Traditional leaders should therefore see themselves as catalysts and agents of change to bring about better development outcomes in areas under the jurisdiction of traditional leadership.
 
Government will continue to build and sustain strong collaborative and partnership platforms with traditional leaders to address poverty and underdevelopment challenges in traditional communities, many of which are located in far-flung, rural and economically deprived parts of our country. 
 
These collaborative efforts will also include a concerted fight against crime that affect traditional communities, thus impacting on issues of safety and development. 
 
Access to land as a critical asset for rural development and economic transformation will be prioritised to ensure that land under the custodianship of Traditional and Khoi-San leaders, is productively utilised to develop communities in terms of agriculture, human settlements and industrial use. 
 
 
Working in partnership with Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Government will ensure that we improve ways in which ordinary people benefit from the beneficiation and extraction of natural endowments on land owned by traditional communities.   
 
Furthermore, as part of Government’s land reform programme, we will continue to provide integrated agricultural production support packages to ensure that available communal land is productively utilised to fight poverty and hunger, and to create opportunities for the development of agro-processing enterprises within rural communities under the jurisdiction of this institution. 
 
In many parts of our country, Government is already providing production support in the form of mechanisation, seeds and market support to communal farmers and beneficiaries of land reform.
 
These initiatives on agricultural production and agro-processing value chains, will unlock untapped potential for rural communities to meaningfully participate in the economy, creating more jobs in the process. 
 
 
More importantly, investment in rural roads infrastructure for connectivity and economic mobility is critical, not only to improve the quality of life, but to open up key routes for the movement of fresh produce and manufactured goods to markets. 
 
Through Government’s infrastructure programme, specific attention is being paid to key infrastructure that connects communities to social facilities such as schools, clinics, hospitals and centres of employment.
 
Never again should we have children braving raging and overflowing rivers with no bridges or walkways in order to access education.
 
Equally, key investment in bulk water reticulation and sanitation infrastructure within traditional communities, will not only benefit industrial development progress, but also respond directly to the basic needs of ordinary people in rural communities who still do not have adequate access to potable clean water.
 
Working with this institution, we are committed to ensuring that these developmental priorities are tackled with a renewed sense of urgency and speed required.
 
We believe that all this work will dovetail with the Invest Rural Masterplan that has been developed and is being spearheaded by the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders.
 
In memory of the departed Traditional and Khoisan Leaders we must pick the proverbial spear, so that we ensure that their vision does not fall by the wayside. 
 
It is now my honour and pleasure to officially open the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders.
 
We thank you.