Traditional leaders urged to help build the nation

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has appealed to traditional leaders to help the government with nation-building, food security, and the promotion of the country’s indigenous heritage.

Speaking at the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders on Thursday, President Zuma said that the institution of traditional leadership had a role to play in supporting the government in its programme of building a prosperous country.

He said the struggle for freedom had also been a campaign to eliminate all forms of violence. “We cannot turn our backs on that legacy of dignified, principled struggle for peace, freedom, human rights and justice. That is why South Africans are outraged at the incidents of violence.”

South Africans loved their country and the majority of citizens were caring and law-abiding. “Therefore, when expressing outrage we should be careful not to paint all South Africans as violent and brutal.”    

He said traditional leaders were well-placed to “work with government and other sectors to rebuild the moral fibre of our society. We believe it is important to look at the root causes while addressing the symptoms of the sickness.”

On the country’s cultural heritage, President Zuma congratulated the National House of Traditional Leaders and its chairperson Kgosi Maubane for its efforts.

South Africa was waiting for folklore to be translated into real stories and for indigenous knowledge to be revealed and integrated into mainstream scientific knowledge.

“The bones of our ancestors that have been found in some parts of the country need to be given life, flesh and a living spirit. They need to be turned into a sight for living heritage and cultural tourism, a monument that all of us would want to visit as domestic tourists who are inquisitive about our past in order to navigate the future.”

Zuma said he had also instructed the Department of Traditional Affairs to collaborate with the South African Heritage Resources Agency to attend to the rehabilitation of declared heritage sites that had been desecrated and vandalised.

“In the same vein, we call upon communities to act as guardians of these centres as they are indeed about who we are. People who desecrate their heritage and sacred sites are doomed.”

Referring to the National Development Plan, President Zuma said it predicted that 30 years from today, South Africa would be a mostly urban country. If this happened, arable land would lie fallow, threatening food security.

One of the effects of the 1913 Land Act was that working on farms became a form of slavery, while generations of youths had developed a grim view of agriculture.

President Zuma urged traditional leaders to support government in making “agriculture and farming look cool and attractive as a career choice for our youth”.

He added that the government would have to work to implement land reform measures to see that communities, who had missed the 1998 land claims application deadline can still apply for land taken away “from them as part of the cruel colonial land dispossession”.

He cautioned, however, that those who had their land returned should be encouraged not to sell it. “Selling the land, at times back to the previous ‘owner’, defeats the purpose of changing land ownership.”

The National Development Plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society. –