May 21, 2019

Committee hears bold demands from traditional leaders’ indaba

Resolutions from the Traditional and Indigenous Leadership Indaba heard by the Committee of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs last week demonstrated few new ideas, but loads of chutzpah.

The Committee received a briefing from the Department of Traditional Affairs on the five-day Indaba, which was held in Gauteng from 28 May 2017 to 2 June 2017, and considered the resolutions of traditional leaders that emerged from it.

The National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) proposed changes that require fairly drastic legislative amendments, including some that may need to go as far up as the ConCourt, but what seemed to worry the Committee most was not where the NHTL was heading, but rather where it was coming from.

Kevin Mileham from the DA asked out loud what many were probably thinking. Was this some kind of throwback to an apartheid past?

focus should have been on the role of traditional leadership in a democratic South Africa

He reminded the Committee that today South Africa is a constitutional democracy which has three spheres of government ie national, provincial and local. There is no governance role for traditional leaders, he said.

At the same time, the Committee acknowledged the need for recognition of traditional leadership and the preservation of culture. Jabulane Dube of the ANC stated that the Committee had a duty to support traditional leaders.

South Africa had an unfortunate history of the institution of traditional leadership being abused and traditional leaders used their Indaba and a platform to express their needs. The Committee had a responsibility to guide them, he said.

Enock Mthethwa from the ANC pointed out that the Indaba was, among other things, focused on “restoring the dignity of the traditional leadership in South Africa”, but he made the point that the focus should have been on the role of traditional leadership in a democratic South Africa.

The Indaba resolutions did not hold back. Most startling among them was probably the demand for substantial salaries for all who fall within the ambit of the NHTL. Where was the money going to come from, Mileham asked? And he couldn’t have been the only one wondering exactly that.

The NHTL wants the entry level of remuneration of traditional leaders, kings and queens to be R1.5m per annum. Principal traditional leaders should receve R1,242,408pa, senior traditional leaders R940,680pa and headmen R519,261.

The traditional leaders said the Independent Remuneration for Public Office Bearers should determine their remuneration according to their core responsibilities and functions rather than the living standards of their subjects.

A special pension fund should be established for traditional leaders, they added, and they should be accommodated in medical schemes like other public office bearers. They also wanted a funding model for the institution of traditional leadership to be developed by the Department of Traditional Affairs along the lines of the Municipal Infrastructure Grant.

Traditional leaders proposed that a R5m baseline budget be set and that capacity building programmes should be provided for members of the Traditional Authority, royal families and royal councils. Alternatively government should provide an adequate budget to appoint personnel, but this would have to be done in consultation with the Traditional Authority. Capacity building for individual traditional leaders required that a skills audit be conducted for all traditional leadership.

Among the list of resolutions was a proposal to meet with National Treasury to make inputs on these budgetary processes. They suggested that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs facilitate such a meeting with the Deputy President and the Minister of Finance for the delegation of traditional leaders led by the NHTL and this should be done within 30 days.

A further resolution was to make the Department of Public Works responsible for building and maintenance of official palaces for kings, queens, principal traditional leaders and senior traditional leaders. The NHTL also said transfer of ownership of official palaces from one leader to another should be determined by the customary law of the community.

It was pointed out that the proposed resolutions cut across various departments and institutions at all levels of government, and most required provincial departments to come on board. The core affected departments that would have to take the resolutions forward were Rural Development and Land Reform, Mineral Resources, Small Business Development, Public Enterprises and Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Cooperative Governance.

One of the key resolutions was that government should transfer land and register titles of all communal land that it currently held in trust for traditional communities and recommended that a land summit of stakeholders be held to thrash out an inclusive sharing model.

There were some questions about the presence and role of the Khoi and San leadership at the Indaba and the implications of adding their funding and land requests. Committee members observed that there were no inputs on the Khoi-San position and no mention was made of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Bill.

The Committee heard the proposal was that everything that had a bearing on the livelihood of communities under traditional leadership had to be referred to institutions of traditional leadership. The role of the traditional leadership sector was to ensure radical socio-economic transformation, beneficiation and the economic development of their communities.

The Department did observe that some of the resolutions were constitutionally impossible and a distinction had to be made between those demands that were doable and those that were not.

The Committee was informed that the resolutions had to be processed by the Department of Traditional Affairs and the financial, legislative and other implications still had to be considered.

The Committee expressed concern about what the traditional leaders would do if their list of demands were not met and called for the Department of Traditional Affairs to look at examples of international best practises. The Department asked why the White Paper on Local Government, drawn up 20 years ago, had not been implemented.

It was agreed by the Committee and the Department that a follow up indaba was needed to flesh out issues, possibly following a Department workshop.

Professor Muzamani Nwaila, Director-General of the Department of Traditional Affairs, said engagement with the NHTL had been useful but that the Department could not take a position. The issues were of a policy nature and fell outside the mandate of the Department.

He was of the view that many of the resolutions were not implementable, but said the Indaba was an opportunity for traditional leaders to engage with politicians. He said that traditional leaders had for the past 20 years asked for a platform for dialogue and the Indaba was such a platform.

Moira Levy

Sourced from the Parliamentary Monitoring Group

Additional Info

  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:16

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