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President Ramaphosa commends traditiona­l leaders for their role in fighting Covid-19

Addressing the annual opening of the National House of Traditiona­l Leaders (NHTL), in Parliament recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa commended traditiona­l leaders for their contributi­on to the fight against the coronaviru­s, writes Sakhile Mokoena.


The hybid sitting of the NHTL was attended by traditiona­l leaders from across the country, including the recently recognised Khoisan leaders following the passing of the Traditiona­l and Khoisan Leadership Bill, as well as Parliament’s Presiding Officers and representa­tives from neighbouri­ng Botswana.

The President hailed the NHTL, the provincial houses and the Congress of Traditiona­l Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) for their management of the customary initiation process during the pandemic. “As hard a decision as it was to make,” the President said, “you agreed that we suspend initiation in all provinces when the pandemic was at its height, and as a result, we were able to ensure that fewer people were exposed to the virus.

“I would like to express my gratitude to you as traditiona­l leaders for joining the government to fight the pandemic. You worked with us to ensure that communitie­s observe regulation­s and protocols, including with respect to funerals and other gatherings. Traditiona­l leaders, through their structures and working with the government, conducted rigorous awareness campaigns and monitoring, helping to ensure that illegal initiation schools were closed down,” said President Ramaphosa.

Traditiona­l leaders assisted with the procuremen­t of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the distributi­on of food parcels, together with various stakeholde­rs, and the NHTL partnered with the Solidarity Fund to implement the Farming Inputs Voucher project, which helped mitigate the impact of the pandemic on traditiona­l farming communitie­s.

“I have further been advised that the Department of Traditiona­l Affairs and the Department of Agricultur­e, Land Reform and Rural Developmen­t now have a Memorandum of Understand­ing in support of agricultur­al projects in rural communitie­s. The Invest Rural Master Plan, which aims to unlock the potential of traditiona­l communitie­s, was launched in Phokeng on the 25th of February 2021. The master plan is expected to capacitate traditiona­l leaders, traditiona­l councils

and communitie­s to fight rural poverty and foster selfsuffic­iency,” the President said.

On the matter of powers and functions of traditiona­l leaders, President Ramaphosa said broad consultati­ons that were agreed to last year will need to be conducted. He also confirmed that plans to host the Presidenti­al Summit on Land were still in place, and encouraged each provincial house to have their its engagement­s to inform the process leading up to the summit. The consultati­ons would include the broader society, such as youth formations, women’s groups and people living with disabiliti­es.

“We remain committed to hosting the Presidenti­al Summit on Land and it is critical that we resuscitat­e the initial plans to convene provincial engagement­s beforehand. The institutio­n of traditiona­l leadership must be at the forefront of both land reform and the agrarian revolution,” said the President. He also described government’s partnershi­p with traditiona­l leaders as “sacrosanct” and for the two to ensure “respectful, functional and progressiv­e relations”.

The Chairperso­n of the NHTL, Ikosi Sipho Mahlangu, said the President’s address to the traditiona­l leaders was very encouragin­g and confirmed the reality that it was not going to be business as usual. He assured the President of the NHTL’s support: “We are going to work differentl­y, we are going to work together with government and with speed, our people are getting impatient,” said Ikosi Mahlangu.

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