MEDIA STATEMENT BY THE
INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Weekly Newsletter to the Nation
My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
The question of traditional leadership is back in the news this week after eleven amakhosi (traditional leaders) made applications to the Nhlapo Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims to be declared kings and accorded a similar status to His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini. The KZN House OF Traditional Leaders which met with members of the Zulu Royal House present on July 5th were, of course, astounded by their claim.
The origins of this admittedly bizarre episode lies in the government's failure to clarify the role and functions of traditional leaders and to resolve the broader 'Zulu question'.
Many people now forget that the Zulu nation entered into the new constitutional dispensation with crystal clear assurances pertaining to the status of the nation and the monarch. My reference point then was, and still is today, that the best way to build a united South Africa is by cherishing and respecting all its constituent parts.
The Zulu nation is a political reality, just like the famous Ashanti of Ghana or the Scots of Great Britain. So are the Kingdom's ancient institutions, namely the monarchy and traditional leadership. Having survived the ravages of colonialism and apartheid, it appears they find themselves earmarked for ultimate oblivion in South Africa's new democracy.
On April 8 1994, just weeks before our first democratic election, His Majesty King Zwelithini starkly told the President, Mr FW de Klerk, "I have seen no action taken to promote the restoration of our Kingdom".
The Inkatha Freedom Party almost did not participate in the first democratic elections because of the absence of guarantees to protect the Monarchy and the pillars of the monarchy, the amakhosi, in the constitutional negotiations.
The election date was set for April 27, 1994. On 19 April after the fateful intervention of my Kenyan friend, Professor Washington Okumu, I met with President FW de Klerk and Mr Nelson Mandela and, just one week before polling day, we signed the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace.
This agreement expressly stipulated that the institutions, the status and role of the Zulu King and the constitutional position of KwaZulu would be protected in the provincial constitution of Kwa-Zulu Natal. We also secured a promise of international mediation to address these outstanding constitutional issues.
The agreement, despite Mr De Klerk's valiant efforts as Deputy-President, was never honoured.
There was an emergency sitting of Parliament to amend the interim constitution to make provision for the King of KwaZulu-Natal in the provincial constitution. An agreement was then signed which provided for a constitution to be drafted for KwaZulu-Natal as soon as possible after the elections. It was specifically indicated that the provincial constitution should make provision for the Kingdom of KwaZulu.
The matter came to a head in 2000, when the new wall-to-wall system of local government was inaugurated. Obviously, due to the lack of clarification, a clash was pending between the roles of councillors and traditional leaders.
The former Deputy-President, Mr Jacob Zuma together with representatives of the Coalition of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, concluded on November 30 2000 that chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution would need to be amended to prevent the obliteration of the roles and functions of traditional leaders.
In the meantime, a long process of negotiations ensued, which included the White Paper process, and was finalised in the National Framework of Traditional Leadership and Governance Act No 41 of 2003. This enabled provinces to pass their own legislation pertaining to traditional leadership.
Also, in a letter to the then National Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Mzimela, President Thabo Mbeki pledged that if the powers and functions of traditional leaders were obliterated by the Municipal Structures Act and other legislation, he would amend the Constitution. Neither this, nor the earlier 2000 undertaking, was fulfilled.
It is important for the reader to grasp that the monarch and traditional leaders are seamlessly linked; they are intricately woven into the same tapestry.
If the Zulu Kingdom is to survive, it must have its respective powers and functions recognised in and safeguarded by a provincial constitution. Such a constitution must accommodate not only the current monarch, but the monarchy as a whole and its constituting structures, i.e. the amakhosi. This, by the way, is not without precedence in Africa. Uganda is a republic like South Africa, but recognises its constituent three kingdoms.
As with any institution, when one begins to tamper with the form, the substance is changed. This is precisely what has happened in KwaZulu-Natal when legislation was passed in 2005 which failed to address the obliteration of the powers and functions of traditional leaders.
The present legislative framework is proving to be an unmitigated disaster for the institution. Traditional Leaders, who are subject to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, have no autonomy or any budget to perform their functions.
We cannot even hold a meeting without the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs approving the budget to hold the meeting. The new legislative arrangements seem to be intent on destroying and abolishing traditional authorities, leaving traditional councils with no administrative capacity.
This has placed traditional leaders and leadership completely outside of the sphere of governance altogether. We are, frankly, a council with no official function, no structures and no administrative capacity: an empty shell of an institution. If traditional leaders are to cooperate with local government to promote development, then we must have the means to do so.
It is sometimes useful to juxtapose the debate within a broader context. I mentioned the Ashanti of Ghana earlier. There the central government has realised that it cannot do without traditional leaders working at the level of local government and the institution is playing a key role in dealing with social, economic and health problems, particularly in combating the HIV/Aids pandemic.
I believe that even as the clock chimes five-minutes-to-midnight for the survival of the institution here, much could be achieved if traditional leaders were enabled to cooperate with local government and were adequately resourced. We may have different roles and different capacities to councillors, but both have at heart the same constituency: the rural poor.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP