Opening of the House of Traditional Leaders Speech

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms Sylvia Lucas, on the occasion of the Official Opening of the House of Traditional Leaders, 14 June 2013, Chamber of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature

Mr Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Chairperson of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Bareki
Deputy Chairperson, Kgosi Toto
Members of the House of Traditional Leaders and Khoisan Representatives
Honourable Members of the Executive Council
Members of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature
Esteemed Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am greatly honoured to have this opportunity to officially open the session of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders. We believe that traditional leaders, as custodians of the cultures, heritage and traditions of our communities, have the responsibility to uphold and protect these customs.

We are witnessing yet another important milestone for this House as it continues with its very important and primary task of promoting the interests of traditional communities in our country and inspiring us to serve them to the best of our abilities.

At this juncture, allow me to call on all the citizens of the province to keep Tata Madiba in our thoughts and prayers and wish him a speedy recovery whilst he is recuperating in hospital. Tata Madiba is a world icon, loved by all, and an embodiment of the sacrosanct values of freedom, justice, peace, equality, respect, the truth and kindness as espoused in our constitution.

Chairperson, the opening of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders is an important occasion that serves to remind us of the enormous tasks and responsibilities we remain seized with in advancing development and service delivery to benefit the people of this Province especially in our rural areas. 

It reminds us that we should remain unshaken by the enormity of challenges to conquer poverty and underdevelopment that still beset many of our people in the underdeveloped rural areas most of which are within the jurisdiction of traditional leadership. Together, we must continue to champion the hopes of thousands of South Africans who cherish a better life, peace, equity and justice.

We always appreciate this interaction with our traditional leaders as it not only strengthen co-operation between the Provincial Government and Traditional Authorities but also reaffirms our commitment to the role of Dikgosi in consolidating our democratic governance especially at a local government level. Allow me also to salute all the traditional leaders in our province for the deep concern you have for the development of your people and their communities. 

Chairperson, we remain committed as the provincial government to continue to provide all the necessary support for the effective functioning of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders as well as ensuring that traditional leaders are continuously engaged to seek their participation and input on matters of development at a local level.

I also wish to commend the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders for the many initiatives and engagements they have made including their historic decision during the first term of the House when eight Khoi-San Representatives were included in the House with full observer status and freedom to participate in the activities of the House.

Their participation was extended to House sittings, committees’ sittings and Management Committee meetings, etc.  It is pleasing to note that these oldest inhabitants of our land have contributed to the notable achievements of the House and the National Department of Traditional Affairs co-business through a series of engagements. In their capacity as the members of the Khoi-San Council, these representatives continue to play a pivotal role in sharing their history, heritage and traditions, as well as governance lessons to the government to be able to give good and inspiring leadership to their communities.

The Provincial Government has since committed to maintain the status quo until such time when the Traditional Affairs Bill is finalized, which seeks to recognize the Khoi-San Communities and Leadership in addition to those who have already been recognized.

Chairperson, I have also received the report from the National Commission on Traditional Leadership on Disputes and Claims. The commission has investigated all the claims in the Northern Cape from the affected parties. We will very soon present it to all the affected parties and inform them about the outcome of the report.

Chairperson, our challenges as a country and a province are enormous and therefore we cannot spare any effort to address poverty and all its negative consequences, especially for the poorest of the poor in rural areas.

Together with local government structures our traditional leaders must identify economic development opportunities to ensure that we create jobs and empower our rural communities. We must jointly embark on tangible opportunities to ensure that we empower our women and allow them to be an integral part of the socio economic development of our Province.

As leaders in our communities, we urge you to speak out against societal challenges such as crime, teenage pregnancies as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

It is incumbent on all of us to encourage children to focus on education as a tool to end intergenerational poverty and the cycle of hopelessness. We must assist through the anti poverty programme to identify the poorest of the poor in our communities so that the necessary interventions are made to uplift and improve their living conditions.

We must ensure that education becomes a community issue by encouraging children to take subjects that will help grow our economy so that we make poverty history and overcome the critical skills challenge in South Africa.

Chairperson, we must speak out against the abuse and violence of women and children. In the spirit of mass mobilization, it is crucial that government, traditional leadership institutions, civil society formations and communities work together to build a moral and ethical society.

Traditional leaders must lead the campaign on HIV/AIDS awareness and spread the message of how people get infected. People must be encouraged to abstain or behave responsibly. Mostly, people in the rural areas get infected out of ignorance and archaic traditional believe and practices. It is our responsibility to educate them about the dangers of the scourge and why they must stick to one partner. Poor living conditions, poverty, hunger, sexual transmitted infections and many other factors all contribute to the spread of this disease. 

We must all actively participate in crime prevention programmes to ensure that our communities enjoy a safe environment and entrench a human rights culture. We further rely on them to assist in the criminal justice system, thereby stemming such unacceptable activities as stock theft, abuse of women and children and drug and alcohol abuse. In playing that role, traditional leaders would be assisting this nation that is South Africa greatly in the campaign for moral regeneration.

Honourable Members, traditional leaders must at all times intervene in social disputes as was seen during the mass protests that took place in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality. It was through the intervention of traditional leaders in partnership with provincial government and other stakeholders that the situation was brought under control.

Chairperson, traditional leaders should be at the forefront of monitoring and evaluating the quality of services in their communities so that they will alert government of the shortcomings and make inputs on how these services could be better delivered. Traditional leaders should participate in structures such as the clinic and hospital boards to contribute to the implementation of measures by the Department of Health and Social Services to improve the delivery of health services in traditional communities.

We must work the land for the benefit of our people as a whole to create sustainable, vibrant and cohesive communities and improve their livelihoods. As a Province, we need to enhance the productive use of land to increase agricultural output in traditional communities promote sustainable livelihoods, and offer possibilities for rural people to generate income from the surplus agricultural produce. We need to access all the agricultural support programmes from the Department of Agriculture to increase agricultural output and create jobs.

Chairperson, we wish to assure our traditional leaders that our local government structures are not design to erode their powers but to complement their efforts to better the lives of our people. Your contribution and continued participation in local authorities will greatly enrich the decisions of councils.

As Africans, the role and status of this institution is very important because it enriches our democracy and gives further testament to the fact that our traditions and cultures are critical to the strength, vibrancy and dynamism of modern societies.

We should continue to enhance the meaningful participation of traditional leadership institutions in development planning and implementation, within our democratic system of local government.

Chairperson

One of the key strategic goals of the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders is the custodianship of cultures, customs, traditions and values as I have already indicated. Within the provincial context, traditional leaders have a significant role to play in promoting indigenous languages and cultures as well as preserving heritage for future generations.

We can never overemphasize the critical involvement of traditional leaders in all our rural development work as well as in all the challenges of rebuilding our societies. This nation building would include participation by traditional leaders in the revival and promotion of our diverse and rich, yet often marginalized languages.

Together with traditional leaders, Government will work to promote a society that highlights caring and social progress, a society that prevents and fights social ills, and a society that respects human dignity and promotes respect for each and every person regardless of their station in life.

I wish the House well in discharging its responsibilities. I declare the official opening of the House of Traditional Leaders in the Northern Cape open.

I thank you

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