Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says traditional leaders remain central to deepening democracy, public participation and effective governance.
“Without your active participation, our nation will not overcome the scourges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he said.
Speaking on the last day of the Traditional Leaders Indaba, which started on Monday in Boksburg, Deputy President Ramaphosa said the traditional leaders are the guardians of South Africa’s hard-won freedom.
The indaba was held under the theme ‘Unity in Diversity – Together moving South Africa forward for an inclusive prosperous future’.
“As government, we are deeply invested in supporting and strengthening the institution of traditional leadership.
“We are invested in restoring the pride and dignity of traditional authority so that our leaders can better lead the reconstruction and development of our nation,” he said.
Deputy President Ramaphosa told the delegates at the indaba that for generations, it has been the function of traditional leadership to facilitate economic development, protect communities and preserve the environment.
“You mediated conflicts, administered restorative justice and defended the vulnerable. As custodians of culture and as stores of ancestral wisdom, you have provided spiritual leadership,” he said.
During the indaba, the delegates discussed a number of issues that affect the traditional leaders and their communities. Among others was the land issue, which the leaders agreed must be speedily resolved.
Deputy President Ramaphosa said government has renewed its efforts to improve the living conditions of millions of South Africans in rural communities.
“We want to do this working hand-in-hand with you to ensure sustainable development in an integrated manner for the communities that you lead. We know that working with you, we can better provide essential services like water, roads and electricity.
“Working with you, we want to intensify and enhance our programme of building roads, installing infrastructure and delivering more clinics, schools and houses.
“We want to work with you to combat the appalling hunger that still affects so many of our people. There is no reason someone living in a rural area should go hungry and be without a job,” he said.
The Deputy President said government is focusing on, among other things, growing the economic value of smallholder agriculture, which will bring many smallholder households out of poverty.
“Some of the initiatives spearheaded by government require changing archaic farming practices, adopting new methods of looking after livestock and participating in programmes which build capacity and skills to enhance land use,” he said.
Touching on health, Deputy President Ramaphosa said government wants to work with traditional leaders to improve the health of rural people.
“We need to ensure that they are reached by our primary health interventions, including community health care workers. In particular, we need to address their vulnerability to HIV and TB, by focusing both on prevention and ensuring access to treatment.
“There are areas where traditional leaders have taken the lead in encouraging men to be circumcised, even where it is not a common cultural practice, because it significantly reduces the chances of HIV transmission. Such interventions have improved the health of our people and saved lives,” he said.
With regard to the youth, Deputy President Ramaphosa said they must be empowered to take their place in the 21st century while holding fast to their best attributes of their past.
He said government is investing in developing the farming skills and capabilities of black youth.
“They will no longer need to leave for the towns and the cities to find work. We must have a dedicated focus on developing the skills of rural youth,” he said.
The indaba was attended by among others, Ministers, traditional leaders, government officials and politicians.