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Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 8th national elective conference of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa

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Programme Director,
President of Contralesa, Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena,
Deputy President, Kgosi Nyalala Pilane, 
General Secretary of Contralesa, Inkosi Zolani Mkiva,
Chairperson of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, Her Majesty Nkosikazi Nomandla Dorothy Mhlauli,
Leadership of Contralesa,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of Parliament,
Your Majesties and Royal Highnesses,
Esteemed Delegates,
I am truly honoured to have been invited to form part of this very important conference. 
This conference is taking place in the aftermath of one of the worst disasters in our country as floods swept through parts of KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and the North West. 
This is a time for all of us to come together and unite behind the efforts of all those people who are providing much-needed assistance to our communities.
I wish to commend the traditional leaders in these areas that have responded to the needs of their people, working to ensure that everyone is safe and has shelter, water and food. 
The days, weeks and months ahead will be difficult as we work to recover and rebuild.
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses,
This year marks 35 years since Contralesa’s establishment in 1987. 
This is an opportune time to reflect on the role of the Congress, the difficulties that it must confront and the opportunities for broadening its work and impact. 
Looking back, it is clear that the founders of this organisation meant for it to be a part of the mass democratic movement fighting the apartheid regime. 
Contralesa organised traditional leaders to resist the homeland system, which relegated many of our people to impoverished rural areas separated along tribal lines. 
As an institution, traditional leadership has stood its ground as a legitimate custodian of customary leadership.
Despite the efforts of colonial and apartheid governments to capture it so that it can promote the ill-intentions of colonial masters, the institution of traditional leadership has remained firm. 
As the father of our nation, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, once reminded us: 
“Heroes like the Khoi leader, Autsumayo.. Maqoma and Hintsa from the House of Tshiwo, Siqungati and Gecelo from the abaThembu, Cetshwayo and Bambatha from AmaZulu, Mampuru and Sekhukhune from baPedi, Makhado and Tshivhase from VhaVenda, and a host of other legends, were in the forefront of the wars of resistance.” 
We cannot forget the role of our traditional leaders in the many wars of resistance against the occupation of African land.
We can never forget the role of our traditional leaders in the fight against apartheid. 
We should honour them by picking up the spear. 
The leadership that will emerge here, just as those before, have the responsibility of seizing the spear of the warriors of the past and continuing with the heroic struggles of their predecessors. 
The terrain of this struggle is different. 
It is not a struggle involving colonial wars. It is not a struggle against apartheid rule. Instead, it is a struggle to create a better life for our people. 
It is a struggle against poverty, inequality and unemployment. It is a struggle to promote social cohesion and nation building. It is a struggle to promote gender equality and to fight gender-based violence and femicide. 
In its preamble, the Constitution of Contralesa states the following: 
“We, the traditional leaders of South Africa, under the guidance of the God of our fore-fathers, believe that the aspirations of our people can only be met under a democratic state based on the will of the people in a unitary, non-racial, non-sexist free and democratic South Africa; and that all persons should enjoy full equal rights of citizenship.” 
We all have a responsibility to do everything possible to make this vision a reality. 
Already in his tenure as a senior traditional leader, Inkosi Albert Luthuli had taken a decision to go against the grain and promote women’s participation in traditional governance. 
In his book ‘Let my People Go’, he wrote that: 
“I took the quite revolutionary step of admitting women to tribal councils. Although the change was accepted by the people without a murmur, ingrained custom tended to keep the women on the outskirts of the discussion. But they did come.” 
This was way back in the 1930s. Back then, inkosi Luthuli already had the foresight to use his position as a traditional leader to promote gender equality. 
Now, the report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture reported that in some instances women are marginalised or discriminated against when it comes to inheriting and or owning land. 
The institution ought to investigate the statement with the intention to remedy the situation and bring an end to practices that discriminate against women. 
As the world is struggling to recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud of the partnership that traditional leadership has had with government, communities and other role players to fight the disease. 
Together, we spread the message of hand washing, social distancing and the wearing of masks. 
Together we promoted the importance of getting vaccinated. 
Together, through the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders, we partnered with entities like the Solidarity Fund to distribute food vouchers to traditional communities. 
This, Your Majesties, is the new frontier of the struggle. 
A frontier that calls upon us to join hands and fight against the death of our young people in customary initiation. 
A frontier that calls upon us to hold hands as we address natural disasters such as the recent floods. 
As government, we are encouraged by the posture that the traditional leadership is taking. 
You will recall, for example, that on the occasion of the previous opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-san Leaders I was introduced to the InvestRural Masterplan. 
I promised to have an engagement with the late Chairperson to understand the full intentions of the plan. 
Unfortunately, that time never came and instead the late Chairperson of the NHTKL Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu left us. 
The strategy has great potential to change the lives of the rural communities for the better. 
An important part of the InvestRural strategy is the role of the Developmental Monarchs. 
The concept of developmental monarchs encourages traditional leaders to have different members of the community who are retired professionals, unemployed graduates and skilled people to craft the plans and vision of the institution. 
Government is aware that there has been a delay in implementing some of the proposals that traditional leaders have been raising. 
Accordingly, in February this year, I took a decision to establish an Inter-Ministerial Task Team chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza to focus on the resolution of matters that traditional leaders have been raising with government over time. 
Premiers, together with MECs responsible for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Houses of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders will also be part of the meetings focusing on resolving matters in their respective areas. 
Land ownership, as agreed at the 2017 Traditional Leadership Indaba, is a critical issue for government to address. 
Consultations on draft proposals towards communal land tenure are on course, and I have been advised that Contralesa has already been consulted in this regard. 
A summit on communal land tenure will be held this year as promised and relevant teams are already working on the logistics. 
When we hold that summit, everybody must be involved as this is a broader community matter. 
Cultural tourism is an economic activity that has the potential to bring positive change to communities.
We need to create opportunities in all provinces and produce a cultural tourism route. 
We need to start documenting our own histories on battles that were fought in defence of the land and our people’s sovereignty. 
We must be able to educate our learners, community members and tourists on the importance of each and every community. 
Our Traditional Councils must work to ensure that their areas become tourist attractions and all of us must be able to explain our histories, cultures and customary laws. 
One of the areas of concern that we must address are the disputes within royal families, which destabilise kingdoms and communities. 
We need to work together to ensure that our different customs and customary laws of succession are observed. 
Elders that are experienced within the institution must be asked to help the young traditional leaders to understand what it means to be a traditional leader.
With these few words, I wish you all a successful elective conference. 
We recall the words of the former President of Contralesa, Inkosi Phatekile Holomisa, at the 1990 Conference, when he said: 
“If all our chiefs and kings were to stand-up and speak with one voice, telling their people, that we are one nation even if we differ in language and culture, all our petty differences would come to an end. The time is high that our hereditary leaders are seen to be embodying the unity of the people.” 
The leadership that will emerge from this conference will need to answer that call. 
We extend our hand of camaraderie and partnership to the new leadership, and commit to work with them in the interests of improving the lives of our people. 
I thank you.