'Traditional leaders don't want handouts': Cyril Ramaphosa

15 March 2021 - 22:12 By belinda pheto
President Cyril Ramaphosa has lauded the role traditional leaders play in their communities.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has lauded the role traditional leaders play in their communities.
Image: GCIS

Traditional leaders don’t want to be dependent on handouts or for their communities to perpetually be looking to the government for financial assistance.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who in his weekly newsletter on Monday spoke about the engagement he had with traditional leaders last week during the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

According to Ramaphosa, traditional leaders wanted to be provided with the necessary support, training and enabling environment to allow rural communities to be self-sufficient.

“They want to bridge the urban-rural divide in access to government services and private sector resources,” reads Ramaphosa’s newsletter. He said traditional leaders would like to see rural areas become centres of economic activity, industry and employment opportunities.

The president lauded the role played by traditional leaders in supporting and driving development in their communities. He said the institution of traditional leadership continues to play an important role in the lives of millions of people around our country, especially in rural areas.

“What was particularly refreshing about the robust engagement was that traditional leadership has a keen appreciation of the difficult economic conditions facing our country, and want to be part of addressing the many challenges of underdevelopment and poverty in their areas.

Ramaphosa reiterated his previous statement that the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic must be inclusive and that nobody must be left behind.

He said the success of the government's economic reconstruction and recovery plan rested on forging strong partnerships between not just government, business and labour, but also with traditional leaders and other societal formations.

They have developed the InvestRural Masterplan, which was launched in North West last month. He said it was encouraging that traditional leaders had rallied behind the plan and want to work with local authorities to ensure it is a success.

What was evident, he said, was that the institution of traditional leadership understood that professionalisation was necessary for rural businesses in the form of SMMEs and co-operatives to become part of the mainstream economy.

The traditional leaders who spoke presented their vision of “developmental monarchs”, who see themselves as not just custodians of heritage but also as drivers of economic prosperity and progress.

Ramaphosa welcomed that traditional leaders expressed their willingness to play an active part in the land reform process. Since 2018, traditional leaders have made around 1,500,000ha  of communal land available for development, and it is hoped this will increase.

To develop a co-ordinated and sustainable strategy, he said, government had agreed to hold a presidential land summit in the next year where issues around land reform and its affect on communal land, much of which is located in rural areas, will be discussed.

Ramaphosa said the tone of the debate in the national house was a fitting reflection of a climate in which “economic recovery is foremost among our considerations”. At the same time, it was a promising signal that traditional leaders appreciate their role in being part of the national recovery effort through being proactive and innovative.

Ramaphosa paid tribute to Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, who will be laid to rest this week, and also the King of the Bapedi nation, Kgoshikgolo Thulare Thulare III, who died early this year.

“With their passing, we have lost champions of the preservation of our heritage, and revered custodians of the histories of their respective peoples. At the same time, they were vital players in rural development, and were committed to driving programmes to uplift the material conditions of their people,” Ramaphosa said.

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