HOSTED BY THE MINISTRY OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE
AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS
PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
INKOSI OF THE BUTHELEZI CLAN AND
TRADITIONAL PRIME MINISTER TO THE ZULU MONARCH AND NATION
DELIVERED ON HIS BEHALF BY
THE HON. INKOSI RN CEBEKHULU MP
Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre
Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Hon. Mr Bapela MP, and representatives from the Ministry;
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Maubane;
Chairpersons of the Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders;
President of the Congress of Traditional Leaders, Kgoshi Thobejane;
Amakhosi and izinduna;
I regret not being able to be with you in person, as my duties in Parliament have me attending the President’s response to the Presidency budget vote this afternoon. I am interested to hear what the President has to say, for I tackled him yesterday on something he said when he opened this Indaba on Monday.
He spoke about the commitment made by Cabinet seventeen years ago, when he chaired an ad hoc Cabinet Committee in negotiations with a delegation of the Coalition of Traditional Leaders. That was on the eve of the first local government elections, and what transpired would impact the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders for years to come.
Before I speak about that, however, let me lay a foundation for my presentation this morning.
For more than sixty years, I have served as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan. Like my great grandfather, and my father, I serve as traditional Prime Minister to the Zulu Monarch and Nation. My birth was intended to unite the Zulu Royal House – through my mother, Princess Magogo kaDinuzlu – and the Buthelezi Clan – through my father, Inkosi Mathole Buthelezi. The son of their marriage was intended to heal an ancient wound, for the sake of strengthening our nation.
I was therefore born with a preordained destiny to serve the Zulu Nation and to seek its survival, unity and strength. I was raised in the royal palace of my uncle, King Solomon kaDinuzulu. And I was raised to believe that our nation’s wellbeing was dependent on the wellbeing of our country. Thus I engaged the liberation struggle from a very young age.
I learned from my uncle, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme, the founder of the South African National Native Congress, the importance of the founding principles of our struggle: the principles of unity, non-violence, and inclusivity.
From my mentor, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, I learned much about servant leadership and the values of freedom, self-reliance, and sacrifice.
It was Inkosi Luthuli who encouraged me to take up my hereditary position as Inkosi of the Buthelezi Clan, when I was asked to do so. He understood that traditional leaders are the fulcrum of good governance within countless communities across South Africa.
That has not changed. Decades later, in a democratic country, traditional leaders remain at the centre of countless communities. They lead and serve in a social structure that has worked for generations; a social structure that has produced stability, security, order and social justice for millions of South Africans.
But somehow traditional leaders are no longer at the centre of local government. They have been ejected and replaced by municipalities, which have assumed the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders. Within the present governance structure, traditional leaders are considered largely ceremonial figures who must cooperate with municipal councils.
The institution of traditional leadership is recognised in the Constitution. But 23 years into democracy, there is not a single piece of legislation that defines or prescribes the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders. Mention is only made is passing in several different laws, which have had the effect of limiting the role, powers and functions of traditional leaders severely.
For instance, in terms of Section 81 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act (Act 117 of 1998), the provincial MEC for Local Government has the discretion to prescribe a role for traditional leaders in the affairs of a municipality.
The Provincial House of Traditional Leaders of KwaZulu Natal rejected this, refusing to accept Government telling us which of us may participate in governance and what that participation will look like. We could not participate in what was, essentially, the disempowering of traditional leadership.
Successive legislation has resulted in a dire predicament for traditional leaders. We shoulder the responsibility for the good governance of our people, yet we are largely excluded from local government and have no real voice when it comes to decisions that will impact our people.
I say this because, as it stands, only 20% of traditional leaders may attend municipal council meetings, and none of them may vote. They are not on par with municipal councillors and cannot expect their participation to have any binding influence.
The municipal council is obligated to allow them to speak. But it has no obligation to take their voice into account when decisions are made. On the contrary, traditional leaders are obligated to participate, so that, when decisions are made, Government can say that the people were consulted and participated.
That, to me, sounds as though traditional leaders are being used.
We cannot keep acting as though everything is normal in the way Government deals with traditional leaders. It is far from normal and far from acceptable.
I have long said that the time is ripe for us to challenge the full body of legislation on traditional leadership through the courts. We cannot smile as government pays lip service to the importance of traditional leaders, when we have been disempowered, ignored, and led around by the nose.
Let me return now to President Zuma’s statement at the opening of this Indaba. He spoke of a Cabinet recommendation on traditional leaders that he alleges was rejected. Perhaps I should give some background first.
South Africa’s first, interim Constitution placed indigenous and customary law on the same level as provincial law. But our final Constitution left the matter in limbo, allowing legislation to give municipalities all the powers and functions of traditional leaders.
As early as May 1997, Amakhosi had an appointment with then President Mandela, to express our concern that the envisaged legislation was not heeding the constitutional mandate of preserving or protecting traditional leadership.
That meeting was requested jointly by me and Nkosi Sango Patekile Holomisa in his capacity as the chairperson of CONTRALESA.
However, when we arrived at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, we were told that the President was not available. We left a memorandum with his office, and received an assurance that the President would respond. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.
The following year, the Coalition of Traditional Leaders was formed. It was comprised of representatives of all traditional leaders of South Africa, including CONTRALESA, and was established to negotiate a solution to the many concerns that traditional leaders had expressed in response to the Green Paper, the White Paper, and the Local Government: Municipal Structures Bill – all of which had remained unaddressed.
Our core concern was that the extension of local government to cover the entire territory with wall-to-wall municipalities would establish a system of governance at the local level inconsistent with local government powers exercised by traditional authorities within traditional communities.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development assured traditional leaders that the envisaged legislation would not adversely affect the powers exercised by traditional authorities. But this was clearly untrue. Thus the Coalition requested urgent consultations with the Minister, to no avail.
Ultimately, traditional leaders were forced to announce that they would advise their communities to boycott the first local government elections if the powers and functions of traditional leadership were not preserved within the envisaged local government reform.
This prompted President Mbeki to state in Parliament, and in a letter to the Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, that he and his Government were committed to respecting the powers of traditional leaders and to restoring their full measure and dignity, if such powers were obliterated or diminished.
This presidential intervention finally led to a negotiating process, and eventually to the appointment of an Ad Hoc Committee of Cabinet members and Deputy Ministers, headed by the then Deputy President Jacob Zuma. The Committee was mandated with the task of solving the impasse.
After extensive negotiations, the Committee and the delegation of the Coalition of Traditional Leaders reached a formal agreement, which was signed by Deputy President Zuma and Nkosi Holomisa on the eve of the local government elections.
In terms of that agreement, traditional leaders undertook not to boycott the elections in consideration of the formal promise that Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution would be amended to ensure that the powers and functions of traditional leaders would not be obliterated by the implementation of the Municipal Structures Act and other municipal legislation.
Seventeen years later, that promise remains unfulfilled.
Yet President Zuma now alleges that the commitment made to traditional leaders was in fact merely a recommendation, which Cabinet subsequently rejected.
That is simply not true. I sat in Cabinet as the Minister of Home Affairs, and that so-called “recommendation” was never tabled before Cabinet; because it was not a recommendation. It was a firm commitment made by a Committee of Cabinet itself.
President Zuma chaired that Committee. He knows the truth. I have said before in Parliament that I am uncomfortable with my country being led with duplicity.
It is time for Government to show us through its actions that it truly values traditional leaders and the role we have played for generations in the good governance of our communities. Words are no longer good enough, because they are meaningless in light of what has actually happened.
I have spent much of my life fighting to bring the issue of traditional leadership into the political spotlight. I fear it still does not receive the attention it deserves. We need to have an inclusive policy debate that involves all role players, including political parties, and I hope that this will be pursued as a follow up from this Indaba.
It pains me that I have found myself at loggerheads with an ANC Government on the issue of traditional leadership. As we fought for political liberation, I fully expected that a government led by the majority would finally give full recognition to traditional leadership and would ensure that this important structure was empowered to drive good local government. But my eyes have been opened by things that have been done and things that have been said.
On the 8th of January 2012, at the centennial celebration of Africa’s oldest liberation movement, President Jacob Zuma described the historical relationship between the ANC and traditional leaders. He said, and I quote, “An important achievement during (the eighties) was the formation of CONTRALESA, which organised traditional leaders into the ANC, assisting the movement to make further inroads in rural areas.”
This forces me to ask the question of what the ANC wants from traditional leaders now. For decades, we have been consulted only in the most perfunctory manner, more often than not after a decision has already been made. Why then are we having the first Traditional Leaders Indaba now, in 2017?
I strongly suspect it has to do with the issue of land reform, which is about to explode in our country.
The President has already indicated that the Constitution will be amended to allow land expropriation without compensation. That policy will need buy-in from traditional leaders if it is to succeed. Moreover, the plan of radical socio-economic transformation will need buy-in from traditional leaders.
As we head into a national and provincial election, in 2019, the ruling party is well aware that it needs to court traditional communities.
But that has not prevented Government from going through the back door to do just what it wants, regardless of the views of traditional leaders.
In 2013, for instance, the eThekwini Municipality tried to claim millions of Rands in rates payments on land in the townships of Durban that is administered and owned by the Ingonyama Trust. Fortunately, the Constitutional Court ruled against the Municipality.
Now the Spatial Land Use Management Act seeks to give municipalities power over land held by the Trust, in terms of rates and acquisition. We may well have to go back to court.
Finally, colleagues, it is interesting that this Indaba intends to address issues of institutional support. For years I have been highlighting in Parliament the fact that National Treasury has allocated no budget at all to the National House of Traditional Leaders, or to the Provincial Houses, or the district and local houses, or even to traditional councils. Traditional leaders, who are subject to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, have no autonomy or any budget to perform their functions, and traditional councils are left with no administrative capacity.
How then are we expected to partner with Government, when we have been disempowered through legislation and weakened through a lack of support?
It is time for things to change. The balance of power must return to the favour of traditional communities. We expect nothing less in a democratic South Africa.
I thank you.