Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has called for a stronger partnership between government and traditional leaders saying this would ensure sustainable development, especially in rural areas.
"Let me emphasise that traditional leaders have a key role to play as partners with government, to build a better life for all our people," he said on Tuesday.
Zuma was speaking at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders, where he paid tribute to traditional leaders who used their position to fight the apartheid regime.
These included Nobel laureate and African National Congress stalwart Inkosi Albet Luthuli, King Dalindyebo of the abaThembu, Montsioa of the Barolong, Lewanika of Barotseland, which was a part of Zambia, and King Letsie of Lesotho.
"Inkosi Luthuli's contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy is highly regarded and appreciated by all lovers of freedom, justice and democracy worldwide. We must work harder to make our communities safer, and to create a new growth path that will help us create decent and sustainable jobs," said Zuma.
Government regards traditional leadership as an important arm in the country's democracy and it has become tradition that shortly after the President delivers the State of the Nation Address, and the Minister of Finance delivers the Budget Speech, the President officially opens the National House of Traditional Leaders.
Zuma said traditional leaders have a critical role to play with regard to rural development.
"Our vision is to see the extension to rural areas of services such as proper roads, water and sanitation, and quality health and education facilities. Rural people need to have access to income generating activities".
Finance Minister Pravin Godhan, in his budget last week, announced that R860 million would be used this year for the Comprehensive Rural Development Strategy.
He also announced a new grant to support on-site water and sanitation infrastructure as part of the rural housing programme. An initial R1.2 billion over three years has been made available for this purpose.
Zuma urged the traditional leaders to be part of government's year of action approach to ensure that service delivery challenges were addressed especially in rural areas. "I trust that there will be constant interface with government in the implementation of services, so that we move along together."