SA: Paul Mashatile: Address by Deputy President, during the Xivijo engagement with Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Ikanga Estate, Bloemfontein (24/10/2023)

24th October 2023

SA: Paul Mashatile: Address by Deputy President, during the Xivijo engagement with Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Ikanga Estate, Bloemfontein (24/10/2023)

Deputy President Paul Mashatile

Programme Director,;

His Majesties present;
The Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Kgosi Thabo Milton Seatlholo;
All Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;
Our host, Free State Premier, Mxolisi Dukwana, and other members of the Provincial Executive Council who are here today;
Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, Ms Thembi Nkadimeng;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers; ​
Mayors present here today;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dumelang! Avuxeni! NdiMatsheloni! Sanibonani! Molweni! Lotjhani! Goeie more! Good morning! ​

Esteemed traditional leaders, we would like to express our gratitude for your presence and participation in today's gathering.
Let me also extend my gratitude to the Premier for graciously receiving us within the confines of your illustrious province, cultural opulence, resplendent fauna, awe-inspiring mountain ranges, and celestial heavens that radiate with brilliance.

I extend my utmost gratitude to you, esteemed Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, for graciously allocating precious moments from your demanding schedules to engage in this programme.

We are greatly inspired by your unwavering commitment to overcoming the complex developmental challenges that traditional communities face; thus, the theme of today's gathering is "Promotion of development and social cohesion in traditional communities through collaboration with Government and private sector”.

As the underlying theme of our discussion suggests, it is important for all of us, as individuals and as a collective, to come together and collaborate in order to achieve a future that is not only prosperous, but is also united in diversity and anchored on the prospects of a greater South African nation that has, at its core, the interests of improving and nurturing the lives of those in our rural communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As part of Government's commitment towards resolving issues faced by Traditional Leaders across the nation, the President established the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) in 2020, which has been focusing on consolidating all existing efforts and unblocking issues that impede the resolution of matters raised by Traditional Leaders.

Since its inception, the IMTT has held a number of meetings in various provinces in order to discuss and implement numerous urgent solutions to some of the identified problems. From March to October 2023, I have also held various engagements with traditional leaders in 7 of the 9 provinces, where province-specific issues were raised.

During these consultations, we learnt a lot about the efforts of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders to empower and develop their communities. As Government, we also committed to play our part in supporting this institution of Traditional Leadership, for the advancement of all our people.

A dialogue with the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders also took place in March this year. During the engagements, the different Ministers and convenors of the various work streams provided progress reports on all issues they are dealing with.

While I welcome the reports presented, I am also expecting to see more concerted efforts from Ministers and their respective Departments in convening Traditional Leaders and facilitating interventions agreed upon in our platforms. Providing support for Traditional Authorities and rural communities is of paramount importance and I will be looking forward to resolutions on how we will strengthen efforts beyond this conference.

In the fast evolving and globalised world we live in, it is paramount that we find ways to bridge the gap between traditional and modern practices in order to strike a delicate balance that preserves our cultural heritage, while also propelling us forward.

The fact that society continues to evolve should not negate the knowledge systems of the past that have significantly contributed to where we are today. We must preserve our history and knowledge systems, such that these may also shape the future that we imagine, a future that is both inclusive and progressive.  

The South African government remains committed to protecting the rights of traditional authorities and their communities. We have confidence in the process that has seen various stakeholders, including communities thrive to bridge the gap between rural and urban, in terms of development, service delivery and overall well-being.

However, we also recognise the challenges that our traditional communities face in this rapidly changing world. Some of the societal challenges that exist include; limited access to information and communication technology services in rural communities, gender-based violence and femicide, teenage pregnancy, drugs and substance abuse, unemployment, HIV/AIDS & TB and inadequate access to water and electricity. Whilst we know that these challenges generally affect all South Africans, we are aware that rural communities are disproportionately affected, and we are committed to addressing these ills with that informed bias.

As Government we have over the years made efforts to bridging the gap in the area of providing access to piped water over the period of 1996-2022, the percentage of households with no access to piped water therefore decreasing from 19,7% to 8,7%. This is a significant milestone and has improved the lives of our communities, especially women and girls in rural areas.

We recognise that challenges still exist in the various areas of service delivery, however we are working together as guided by the District Development Model to close these gaps and fast-track development in rural areas.

However, we must collaborate to address these issues, as well as in dealing with inequality, poverty, and lack of access to land. I am strongly persuaded that traditional leadership structures, as strategic institutions located in the rural areas, have a role to play in resolving these challenges, and making sure that no one is left behind.

We must commend the work that is done by the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development in supporting young people within various Traditional Authorities across the country with regard to agricultural enterprises, through the National Rural Youth Service Corps (NARYSEC) programme.  

Through the Department of Traditional Affairs, we are also resolving the issue of remuneration and allowances for Traditional Leaders through the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office-bearers and the final review will be completed by end of November 2023. We are committed to ensuring that Traditional Leaders are supported in order to perform their duties as expected by their communities.

I sincerely urge all leaders here, that in the process of addressing our own challenges as Traditional and Khoi-San leaders, we must not relent from protecting and defending our children, youth, and women who are most vulnerable to societal ills.

Furthermore, it is imperative to acknowledge the marginalisation of individuals residing in rural areas from global connectivity and information exchange, mostly stemming from the limited accessibility to information and communication technology (ICT) services within rural communities.

We must work towards closing these technological gaps, and we can achieve this if we strategically allocate investments towards the infrastructure networks in rural regions. This will enable individuals to attain essential amenities including water and sanitation facilities, reliable electricity supply, as well as well-maintained road networks that establish connectivity between their residences, workplaces, educational establishments, and healthcare facilities.

Technological expansion also provides us with the possibility to also merge our knowledge systems and wisdom with knowledge and information that is relevant and needed in the present day to take society forward. I am aware that when it comes to leading communities, Traditional Leaders largely rely on historic knowledge and wisdom from the ancestors, as well the experience acquired from leading the people for generations.

In order to mould communities that are prosperous, stable, socially cohesive and relevant to the demands of the modern day, I believe, that we must as Traditional Leaders acquire new abilities. We need to equip ourselves with skills and training that will make us understand the dictates of the modern society.

In this regard, Government stands ready to provide training where necessary, in order to capacitate our institutions and to enable Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders to fulfil their mandate. We are already capacitating Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders by providing training to Traditional Leaders across all provinces on gender-based violence and femicide, through the Department of Social Development, and training on the art of facilitation, which is provided through the National School of Government.

With regard to advancing land ownership, consultations with various organisations including traditional authorities, civil society, experts and the private sector have been conducted to advance land ownership, tenure rights, and socio-economic development in rural communities. The Draft Communal Land Bill and policy are being developed for further input and will be processed through government structures and Cabinet for public comments in the 2024/25 financial year.

Moreover, a number of rural infrastructure projects were delivered in the nine provinces. These projects included construction and rehabilitation of Farmer Production Support Units (FPSUs) focusing on animal welfare, farming facilities, improved road and bulk infrastructure, and the overall development of pre-schools, community halls, and Agri-Parks.

As part of Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) and Ilima/Letsema, the Solidarity Fund provided production inputs, mechanisation, infrastructure, and training to 36,692 farmers. This among other things highlighting the progress that we can make towards economic inclusion through social compacting for development.

Regarding the promotion of safety, unity, social cohesion and nation building in rural communities. The concept of Traditional Policing was introduced in three provinces – Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga – to promote unity, social cohesion, and nation building in rural communities.  

As part of the broader strategy to increase capacity of the police and deal with unemployment in the rural areas. Some of the reserves from the Traditional Policing initiative were employed as police officers and are currently undergoing training in different South African Police Service Training Academies across the country.

Baetapele ba Africa borwa,

These are just highlights of progress made thus far. You will have the opportunity to receive a more comprehensive and detailed progress report as the work streams present their reports today.

We look forward to frank, honest, and robust engagement on the work that is being done. We must acknowledge the progress that has been made, and where progress is not satisfactory, we must be firm in our criticism, but as leaders also put our heads together to unlock whatever blockages or obstacles that exist.

It is not enough for us to convene under an attractive and carefully designed theme if we are not willing to implement the proposed solutions.

The late professor, Theodore Levitt once said, “Ideas are useless unless used. The proof of their value is in their implementation. Until then, they are in limbo”. I personally echo these sentiments and propose that as we re-convene today, we evaluate the resolutions derived from previous meetings and examine the reasons for their non-implementation.

I want us to focus more on implementation. Since assuming office, I have been emphasising on the need for diligence and urgency in executing our policies and strategic objectives.

As leaders, we have the power to transform livelihoods. Our communities also have a widespread expectation that our presence as leaders would result in the realisation of their goals, desires, and aspirations.

It is therefore the responsibility of leaders to identify and unlock potential in the areas of the economy that hold the promise of creating opportunities for the people to earn a living.

Your leadership as Traditional and Khoi-San leaders is also crucial to the building of a cohesive, united, and successful society that is democratic in form and is free of racism, sexism and any kind of prejudice.

As Government, we remain committed to swiftly addressing any issues confronting Traditional and Khoi-San leaders. We will continue to support initiatives that benefit our indigenous communities. We will also continue to provide sufficient funding for education, healthcare, and social services so that no one falls behind.

Similarly, we call upon the private sector to actively engage with our traditional communities through investing in local businesses and projects. Through initiatives such as skills development programs, entrepreneurship training, and mentorship, we can collectively unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that resides within our traditional communities.

In conclusion, as we work towards the promotion of development and social cohesion in our traditional communities, let us remember that this journey requires the collective effort of all stakeholders. Let us recognise the immense potential that lies within our traditional communities, waiting to be unleashed.

Together, we can create a future where traditional and modern ways of being thrive side by side, where development and social cohesion go hand in hand. And most importantly where the unity of our diversity can be enhanced.

Thank you.