Play your part, Ramaphosa tells traditional leaders

President backs call for formalisation of 'kings and queens' forum

23 February 2023 - 16:14
By Amanda Khoza
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders in Cape Town on Thursday.
Image: GCIS President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders in Cape Town on Thursday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has backed the call for the formalisation of a traditional “kings and queens” forum.

“We see it as an important platform to tap into the collective wisdom of our majesties. The forum will help us address disputes around traditional leadership, gender-based violence and other social ills, initiation challenges and others,” he said at the opening of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders in Cape Town on Thursday.

The forum would help document South Africa's history and the role traditional leaders played during the freedom struggle, he said, adding that the country’s history should not be told by “colonial writers, observers, tourists, those with guns and Bibles in their hands”.

“The history of our country needs to be told by us and I long for that day.”

Because of their proximity to communities, he said traditional leaders have a critical role to play in the development of society.  

“In times of challenges, danger and what others may see as insurmountable obstacles, that is when we close ranks. That is when we hold each other’s hands and work together.”

On land reform, Ramaphosa said communal land should be used as capital to support investment in community development.

“I am pleased that the long-awaited communal land administration and tenure summit took place in May last year,” he said.

He asked traditional leaders to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Ramaphosa also warned the death of initiates was reaching epidemic proportions. 

“The Customary Initiation Act came into effect in 2021. The act aims to protect lives, set norms and standards and ensure initiation takes place in a controlled and safe environment.”

The closure of illegal initiation schools must be done with vigour and determination, the president said.

Progress has also been made in creating a legal basis for the institution of traditional Khoi-San leaders, which has now been signed into law. The government has appointed a commission on Khoi-San matters, which is accepting applications for recognition.

Last year, Ramaphosa established an interministerial task team led by Deputy President David Mabuza to deal with matters raised by traditional leaders.

“Proposals on the provision of administration grants to traditional councils and the recognition of headmen and headwomen are also under consideration,” he said.

“There has been determination and some of the issues were put as bluntly as can be — on issues such as payments, tools of trade, infrastructure development and the land issue.

“Some of you sent me messages to say the key issue is the pay of traditional leaders. I am not the minister of finance. You should scrutinise the minister of finance’s budget and find what he said about what should happen to traditional leaders.”


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