Pretoria – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says government remains committed to restoring the dignity of traditional authority so leaders can better participate in the reconstruction and development of South Africa.
The Deputy President addressed the 20 years Commemoration of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders held at Bhisho Stadium on Friday.
“Our Constitution envisages traditional leadership that plays a central role in social and economic development.
“It is a vision that sees the institution of traditional leadership contributing to employment creation, social cohesion and nation building,” he said.
The Deputy President said government has renewed efforts to improve the living conditions of millions of South Africans living in rural communities.
“We want to do this working hand-in-hand with you to ensure sustainable development in an integrated manner for communities that you lead. We know that working with you, we can better provide essential services like water, roads and electricity.
“Working with you, we want to intensify and enhance our programme of building infrastructure and delivering more clinics, schools and houses. We want to work with you to combat hunger that still confronts many of our communities.”
He said government and traditional leaders must work together to infuse new traditions of innovation and empower youth to take their place in the new economy.
He recognised and honoured heroic kings and queens for their unrelenting struggle against the brutality of colonialism and apartheid in defence of South Africa’s freedom, land and identity.
During the height of apartheid, the Deputy President said, many paid with their lives to achieve the sacred goal of national liberation.
He said the democratic breakthrough in 1994 was a victory for traditional leaders as it was for all South Africans, and it was a victory for formations like the Congress of Traditional Leaders, which mobilised communities to achieve a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“Working together, we crafted and adopted a Constitution which recognises and values the crucial role of traditional leaders in forging a capable, efficient developmental state.
“Working with you, we made significant advances in establishing a single local government system from the fragmented, undemocratic and racially divided apartheid system.
“In 1994, we inherited an unaccountable system of governance consisting of separate administrations for different racial and ethnic groups. As many of our people would attest, homeland administrations were poorly organised and badly resourced.”
He said back then, municipalities that were well capacitated were mostly in urban areas and served the needs of white South Africans, and municipalities lacked transparency and accountability.
“They were platforms for corruption and the abuse of power.”
He said the democratic South Africa therefore needed a transformed governance system that would allow all South Africans to claim ownership of the country.
The Deputy President said government’s programme to resource the institutions of traditional leadership continues.
“We are investing in the construction and maintenance of Traditional Councils, appointment of secretaries and the provision of the necessary tools and resources. Since its inception 20 years ago, this House has done phenomenal work to strengthen service delivery to rural communities.
“It has done phenomenal work in the preservation of traditional norms, heritage and cultural practices in the Eastern Cape.”
However, he said the work is far from over, as a new generation takes over the leadership of the House.
“We are confident that the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders will remain an instrument of empowerment, development and prosperity for all. We have walked the last 20 years together.
“Now, as we begin a new era, we will continue to walk together on the journey to a better life for the people of this province and the people of this country.”