Blogs » WildCoast.Com's blog

Nothing new under the sun

"it is incumbent upon Traditional Leadership to seek to purge the institution of all illegitimacy by being prepared to commit class suicide when the audit of Traditional Leadership takes place."

www.info.gov.za/speeches/

ADDRESS OF PREMIER M.S. STOFILE TO THE HOUSE OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS - 27 MARCH 1998

Honourable Chairperson - Chief M. Nonkonyana
Honourable Members of the Executive Council
Honourable Members of the House
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour to be here today during the opening of this august House.

This opening is taking place during a critical time in our history. It is a time which represents transition from the tyranny of the past to democracy.

It is a time of transformation. Transformation transcends all aspects of our lives. All levels of our society cannot escape this movement. It is an imperative of social development. We all know that there was once what was referred to as the stone age; but today we talk of the 21st Century which is characterised as the Space Age. All of these is meaningless if we do not grasp and grapple with the dynamics of social change.

The theme I wish to talk to today is, therefore, the responsibilities of social change. I want to talk about the responsibilities, not rights and privileges. This is not to deny that there are rights which all of us are entitled to; rights which are now enshrined in our constitution. I want to lay emphasis on the responsibilities because for social transformation to evolve meaningfully, it needs human effort to shape and mould it into the form that will enhance the quality of life of everyone of us.

When we talk of better lives for all we do not mean lives of hand-outs, lives of privilege, lives of entitlement. We mean lives of people who make things happen for themselves and for those of lesser capabilities.

The responsibilities of social change are multifaceted and varied. The various levels and strata of society are confronted by different challenges which need a combined effort to overcome.

In our country today we talk of reconciliation which is a theme that runs like a golden thread through the social transformation we are grappling with. This reconciliation is an effort which must be exerted by both Black and White, royal and common. Such is the combined effort I am referring to.

We talk of reconstruction and development. This is an endeavour which the government and the people must combine to achieve.

Without taking for granted what the responsibilities of ordinary people are in this transformation, I would like to air some views on what I believe are the responsibilities of Traditional Leaders in the democratisation of our society.

First of all, Traditional Leaders have to review the institution of Traditional Leadership. They must look at it historically. They will then begin to see that it was not always what it is today. They will acknowledge that if it once was democratic, there was then a stage in history when it became not only undemocratic but decidedly anti-democratic. This is not to deny that individual leaders did stand up and were counted among those who strove for democracy.

The policy of divide and rule was used by colonists to continue to oppress and exploit our people. This was not likely to succeed for long without the co-option of the institution of Traditional Leadership, among other things. The distortion of this great institution began then and has never been without controversy ever since.

"Though the whip remained in the hands of the White government, it has been the Chiefs, the new jockeys, riding the reserve horse, who have applied the spurs. "(GAM Mbeki - The Peasant's Revolt, 1964) (Mbeki commenting on the collaboration of chiefs in the colonisation and oppression of African people, especially in the Eastern Cape).

On this deligitimisation of the institution by both Colonial governments as well as apartheid regimes, the picture is very bleak. Many of the descendants of collaborators are still sitting on land which was wrongfully acquired. But we cannot turn back the clock, can we? For instance we cannot restore Durban to the Bhaca tribe. The only nations, for instance, which fought consistently against colonialism are the Gcaleka and the Mpondomise. Others had faltered, recovered and faltered again and sometimes recovered again. (The last was not very often). How do we correct that? This House must address those issues and address them selflessly and objectively.

We have to develop an honest definition of the term "traditional leaders" itself. Do we mean by this the leadership which was introduced by Colonial powers (which amongst other things created headmen)? Where does tradition begin? Where does it end? These are the fundamental transformation issues that face this House as opposed to sentimental ones that merely want to return to colonial and apartheid privileges. Even the Laws we tend to rely on are Laws passed by Colonial or apartheid regimes. These are likely to clash with democratic norms and principles.

The responsibility of Traditional Leaders is to restore the dignity of this institution. They must ensure that if it is no longer undemocrati. It must be transformed into a democracy. The institution itself is about people. It is not about the individuals who, themselves are merely custodians on behalf of the people.

The Traditional Leaders must positively contribute, on their own, to the debate on what the role of Traditional Leadership should be in a democracy.

A few challenges currently facing our combined efforts need to be touched upon. Some time last year a Bill was passed into and Act of the Legislature. This Act is the Regulation of Development in Rural Areas Act No. 8 of 1997. As the title indicates, this Act is meant to regulate development in the rural areas.

It is government's responsibility to ensure that our rural areas are adequately developed to improve the quality of lives of the people in those areas. The government sphere which is closest to these people is the TRC. The TRC's are, indeed, transitional structures which envisage the co-operation on the democratically elected representatives and the Traditional Leaders. Unfortunately there are a number of limitations in the current Local Government Act for rural areas. We have raised this with the relevant structures since 1995. Now we have a White Paper that attempts to incorporate some of our own recommendations.

Obviously event that White Paper is not going to be adequate to all. That is how life goes. We do not always get all what we want. But the most important thing is how we handle our dissent. This is where, I submit, all of us have failed, including members of this venerable house. We can understand that in so far as it is a political exercise.

There is also the matter of the relationship of this House and government. This relationship is governed by statute and the Constitution. It is important to note, in addition, that the legal framework on its own is not enough to make the relationship a healthy and constructive one. That needs the combined effort of government and the leadership of this House to fine-tune legislative tools to give life to them. It is the responsibility of the Traditional Leaders as well as ours to ensure that happens.

The responsibilities of social transformation are, indeed, many. The dominant feature of this phase of our social development is political activism. Mainly people engage in political activism to conquer political power. They hope thereby to be able to use such power to drive the process of social transformation for the betterment of the life of their constituencies.

It is true, also, that not all who engage in political activism do so with altruistic motives. Many join political organisations and movements merely to gain certain positions to satisfy self-seeking interests.

This means that the game of politics becomes a dirty one. The scene in S.A. and our Province has proved to be no different. It is, therefore, our fervent belief that if we are to maintain a certain level of decorum and dignity for the institution of Traditional Leadership, those who are the custodians of this institution should be seen to be handling their responsibilities with great sensitivity.

If they are seen to be partisan politicians not only will they be discrediting themselves in the eyes of their subjects, but also degrading the institution and dragging it into further controversy.

For well-known reasons, our Province has born the brunt of underdevelopment and deprivation. The recent census and the manner of allocation of funds for the Provinces have not helped improve matters. No one is unaware of that. So the hardships and belt-tightening exercise should make sense to all. But sadly this is not always so. The fact is, matters have gone from bad to worse because the recent census shows that our population is estimated of far less than what it actually is.

The needs far outweigh the resources. We are, therefore, facing an uphill battle to survive let alone to plan to turn around the scourge of underdevelopment. And may we remind the honourable members, we were not in government when that underdevelopment of rural areas was planned and executed.

The pensions fiasco of December-January was caused partly by administrative bungling; but, largely, it was the fact that not enough funding was provided for in the first place. We have, nevertheless, made sure that no such debacles will occur in future.

We have also managed to expose and eliminate tens of thousands of ghosts. Some of them earned pensions for 30 years, long after they had died. Some of these cases were deliberately allowed to continue. The same can be said of people who applied for pensions as far back as 1991. Their applications are being processed for the first time by our government. If this is not a product of gross corruption it certainly smacks of inefficiency - terms that are used glibly by those who engineered the evolution of such bad practises in the first place.

Similarly with education the government has set in motion a process of renewal and tightening up of the administrative machinery to ensure that this vital service is properly and adequately delivered to our people. I will not go into the horrible situation we inherited from old Education files, some of them going back for 20 years.

Mr Chairman, the list of our responsibilities in social transformation is endless. Some are born out of what we do to face those that confront us in the short to medium term. Others depend entirely on our agenda. If what we do seeks to maintain what was the status quo, then that ceases to be a responsibility; that is irresponsibility.

We must all guard against the temptation to prefer Egypt to Canaan. Glorified slavery is still slavery. The "House nigger" is still a slave. If the previous regimes sought to glorify illegitimate Traditional Leadership, that should not blind us to the fact that it was still a tool for oppression.

It is the responsibility of Traditional Leaders therefore to be agents of transformation and catharsis in this regard, it is incumbent upon Traditional Leadership to seek to purge the institution of all illegitimacy by being prepared to commit class suicide when the audit of Traditional Leadership takes place. This is going to be difficult as many will have to lose personnel perks.

The realignment of functions and restructuring of departments has meant that all interconnected functions are clustered together for efficiency and effectiveness. Others have been separated e.g. Health and Welfare.

Because the Premier's Office is the vehicle for strategic leadership and co-ordination, it is not a line functioning department. For that reason, therefore, the Directorate for Traditional Affairs had been placed within the Department of Housing and Local Government which deals with rural local government, among other things. This, by the way, is in line with national policy as to where Traditional Affairs are located.

It is hoped that this realignment will facilitate the co-operation we long for between the elected rural councillors and Traditional Leaders. The Premier's Office will remain accessible for all to try to resolve those differences which are not easy to iron out.

One of the major concerns for our Province, in particular, is the scourge of corruption. This is prevalent not only within the civil service, but in society in general. The Private Sector is also not without blame. What is alarming is to find out that among the Traditional Leadership, some members are also tainted. This is a sad situation. For example in one instance, a Chief claimed R2000 odd for travelling allowance from his home to Umtata, a distance of no more than 200kms. When we talk of transformation and when we talk of empowerment we certainly do not mean greed and rapaciousness. It is the responsibility of Traditional Leaders to fight corruption whenever it finds it, even among their number.

It is important to raise the issue of the scope of responsibilities of this House, if only to reaffirm the legal framework. Without going into detail, it should suffice here to state categorically that this House is not a forum which has now since taken over all the powers of Paramount Chiefs and Kings. It is still correct to deal with the Paramount Chiefs and Kings and their subjects without having to seek permission from this House. Primarily, this house has to monitor legislation which deals with traditional and customary matters.

It has to advise government, through the legislative process, about the promotion to those traditional and customary interests affected at a given time. We may not agree with this. But that is the current law.

The responsibilities of social transformation are not always sweet and light. They are, most of the time, very bitter experiences. The transformation of Traditional Leadership will not be different. Human beings, by nature, resist change.

We have resisted treating traditional leaders as civil servants. To do so would have been an affront to the institution as it was when colonial and apartheid regimes made them agents of magistrates and Bantu Commissioners. The tendency, then, to want to equate Traditional Leaders with civil servants should be resisted by all means. Responsible leadership will thus play a leading role in this regard.

To recap and to conclude, Mr Chairperson, allow me to allude once more to the relationship between government and Traditional Leadership. This bond is acutely relevant at the rural local government level. To date no finality has been reached on how it should be structured to enable better relations and co-operation. The White Paper on Local Government is currently addressing the issue. All are duty bound to contribute towards this all-important debate.

The fundamental truth, though, is that social transformation imposes heavy responsibilities on all of us. In the case of Traditional Leadership, it has to redefine their role in a democratic milieu. In so doing, it will take into account the inevitability of progress in social development. Gone are the days when chiefs were Army Commanders or Supreme Courts even.

The fact that we are in Africa does not quite make us unique. All countries of the world have had kings and chiefs. They have transformed those institutions as times changed. We have to produce our own model of transformation. One thing is certain, change is unstoppable.

I Thank you .....

- THE END -

Add new comment