Noting the important historical content and lest we forget the roots of South Africa’s New Democracy – heads up Holomisa
Posted by Melanie Nathan, October 18, 2013.
When reading this critical speech, please keep in mind that some of the members of the traditional leadership, to whom this was addressed, have attempted in recent years, to hamper with the South African Constitution suggesting the revocation of inherent and expressly conferred equal rights to all South Africans based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TRADITIONAL LEADERS, Cape Town, 18 April 1997
Your Majesties, the Kings of our people and guests from abroad;
Amakhosi, Magoshi, Mahosi;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many years ago, a British army commander reported to his superior: `The camp is in the hands of the enemy, sir!. The Battle of Isandlwana had just been fought and the amabutho had defeated columns of an army feared and revered throughout the world.
Almost one-hundred-and-twenty years later, we gather in Cape Town to set up the National Council of Traditional Leaders, in the precincts of an institution that was used to perpetuate what that commander and his superior were delegated to do: to defeat, to subjugate and to dispossess the African people; to plunder their land and usurp its wealth.
We meet in the full and fulfilling knowledge that we can now declare: `The country is in the hands of the people, dear friends!’
Isandlwana was one battle among many – Rhini in the east, Thaba Bosigo in Lesotho, Ga-Sekhukhuni and Tshitandani in the north, Vegkop; and here, too, in the Cape Peninsula where we gather today – some won and some lost, as our forebears took up the cudgels despite being out-gunned, to defend their land, their dignity and their freedom.
And so we meet, as descendants of these valiant fighters, in a different setting, in a different era, to plan for peace and not war; to promote unity and not division; to forge a common nationhood and not exclusive privilege.
That we gather at the dawn of the new millennium, is a reminder of the fact that, valiant though their resistance was, the African people were conquered; a dark interregnum of defeat and humiliation set in; and yet the resistance continued, taking many forms under many different conditions. In the end, right triumphed over might.
We meet not as victors to dance to the cries of war; we meet not to celebrate over any vanquished people. Our trophies are neither skulls nor precious booty.
We meet to assert the humanity of persons one to the other; to seek unity and reconciliation; to set shoulders to the wheel in building a better life for all.
I feel truly humbled to officially open the National Council of Traditional Leaders; to stand before my leaders, at last to acknowledge their status and role as full participants in national affairs; as part of the corps of leaders in the reconstruction and development of our country.
The presence among us of Kings and other dignitaries from neighbouring countries once again attests to the oneness of our sub-continent. As in the past, and as it will always be in the future, we are one people with one destiny.
We are mindful that the journey to where we are today has not been easy. But all of us persevered because we knew that what we had set out on was the right road.
In the Northern Province, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu/Natal, Free State, Northwest, Northern Cape, Northwest and Mpumalanga, without exception, there were problems along the way. But through hard work; by putting the interests of the country first, we were able to find common ground.
Out of these efforts, the provincial councils have already set pointers to the kind of national council we all want. They have started to address unity across ethnic lines; they have started to examine many vexed questions about representation; they have started to work out programmes to bring traditional leaders fully into the socio-political life of the nation, and to ensure complementarity rather than competition between elected and traditional authorities.
Today we are taking the giant step of setting up the Council of Traditional Leaders. And the consensus that is emerging in the course of work in the provinces gives us the strong confidence that this Council will succeed both to define its role and to assert the Africanness of our new democracy.
When the new Constitution was drafted, there concerns were that it did not define in sufficient detail the status and role of traditional leaders; that it did not, unlike the Interim Constitution, oblige government to set up this council.
Some saw this as backtracking on the part of political parties; others interpreted it as a refusal on the part of these parties to acknowledge the unique African setting within which the universal ideals of democracy and justice should find expression.
But we argued as the majority party and the government that we would be true to our word, true to our South Africanness, true to the traditions that form part of our rainbow nation.
The respect and recognition of the institution of traditional leaders require more than fine-sounding declarations in a constitution. They should reside in our hearts. and the launch of this Council today is one vivid expression of that.
We believe that, in many ways, the fact that both the Constitution and the law establishing the Council, do not set out rules and regulations in detail is an opportunity to be exploited rather than a disadvantage to decry.
In the first instance, working out all the details would have taken an inordinate time, with complex negotiations to try to balance among many conflicting interests.
Secondly, the new institutions would have been presented with a fait accompli regarding a system that is, to all intents and purposes, a novel undertaking which should evolve creatively in the blast furnace of concrete experience.
And we should not fear the fact that, pleasant as some of these experiences will be, others will test our patience and forbearance. This is as it should be, in a moment of building anew.
Among the questions that constitutional experts, politicians and traditional leaders themselves are debating is whether thorough- going democracy is inherently inimical to traditional institutions. This is not the forum to debate these issues in detail.
But we dare say that consultation, transparency and equity were the corner-stones of the early societies from which we come. We dare issue the challenge that on matters such as gender equality, tradition – good and bad, then and now – cannot be seen as static.
Our views on all these and other issues is that old and new mores were accepted by communities as such, because they regulated relations of their times. And so it should be now; so that tradition is seen not as a sentimental attachment to the past, but as a dynamic force relevant to present-day realities.
What then, dear leaders, are the concrete challenges we face?
Indeed, because we are meant to be leaders of the people, our challenges cannot be different from those that the people face.
Foremost amongst our tasks as a nation is to mobilise the people for reconstruction and development. As the people were their own liberators, so should they become active agents in changing their lives for the bgetter. For this, our communities need information about what resources and funds are available to them; skills to turn their needs into plans and project proposals; and an effective partnership with government. Traditional leaders can promote these requirements.
Oppression was overcome in South Africa, and democracy is being built, by an ever widening unity across the lines of race and ethnicity. But it would be a mistake to regard that unity as something that will preserve itself. We need constantly to encourage and promote it. As leaders, we need to be vigilant in ensuring that the diversity which is our strength is never again used to divide us.
Fundamental to our unity is the mutual respect for the rich variety of our languages and cultures. While the constitution recognises rights in this regard and proposes institutions to promote them, this will have little effect without the involvement of traditional leaders.
Our freedom is also giving impetus to the recovery of our history. Recent excavations, together with earlier work, are freeing our understanding of the past from the colonial account of our country and region. They point with increasing detail to our country’s place in Africa’s civilisation. Traditional leaders can promote and assist continuing research so that we know who we truly are.
the nation, with your help, also needs to come to a proper understanding of those whose history has been most grievously affected by the ravages and distortions of apartheid and colonialism: the Khoi and the San.
Bound up with the knowledge of our history is the resolution of the disputes on lineage bequeathed to us by apartheid’s ruthless attempts to bend the institutions of traditional authority to its own end. Again, we have a central role to play in helpijng to resolve these problems.
Perhaps more difficult than most, is to find the best ways in which our elected structures of local government and traditional leaders can work together for the good of their communities. This is a crucial area for reconstruction and development, and a resolution of outstanding differences and conflictual matters is of the greatest importance. Our experience has shown that with goodwill and a commitment to the interests of the community as a whole, even the most difficult problems can be overcome and mutually beneficial solutions found.
There are many such challenges that this Council will have to address.
And one of the more urgent ones is to finalise the issue of who sholuld be a full part of this institution which we are today bringing to life. We are encouraged at the progress that is being made towards finding a solution to this question in relation to the Griquas, whose long resistance to dispossession forged leaders of the stature of Waterboer, Le Fleur and Adam Kok.
All these tasks will demand infrastructure and resources, and Government commits itself to providing these, within available resources.
In any case, we do not view the Council as an appendage or unwelcome addition to the plethora of institutions we already have. Quite the opposite. It is in fact part of the pool of organisers and leaders of nation-building and reconciliation, reconstruction and development.
Because it is new, the Council will be seized with the urgent question of defining its rules and how it will relate to the structures of parliament and other national institutions. I am certain that these matters will be resolved without difficulty, within the context of concrete experience.
The Ministry of Provincial Affairs and Constitutional Development is also seized with all these matters. And we are proud that, for the first time in our history we have a special section in government which is a servant of traditional leaders, rather than one that treats them as an anthropological curiosity.
The victory that we have scored against apartheid has laid the firm basis for all the people of South Africa to unite across colour, language, ethnic and religious barriers. It has launched us on the course of realising our true potential.
Before the darkness of the interregnum of defeat and humiliation, great visionaries such as Gonnema, Moshweshwe, Cetshwayo, Nghunghunyane, Hintsa, Montsiwa, Sekhukhuni, Ramabulana, Mzilikazi, Kok and Mswati had come to the realisation that the disunity of the African people was at the centre of their woes.
Having together resolved that South Africa belong to all who live in it, we know that the unity of our nation is our strength as we strive to build a prosperous nation.
Our tryst with these forbears is to build South Africa into a united, non-racial, no-sexist and democratic country; a nation of Africans across colour lines; an African democracy in the modern world.
The country is in the hands of the people. Let us roll up our sleeves and get down to work.
It is now my pleasure and privilege to announce the inauguration of the Council of Traditional Leaders.
(CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)
Issued by: Office of the President
Holomisa is saying that LGBTI people should not be protected by the Constitution because some people believe they are not entitled to those rights. He is forgetting that thinking is the very reason why their rights are so protected.
What remains is the question of what next – while traditionalists ought to have a voice in South Africa’s Parliament, they should be banned from sitting on committees where they have an inherent conflict of interest. Which means they should be excused from serving in positions where they risk impacting the entrenched rights of minorities such as gays, lesbians etc.
WATCH VIDEO The UN human rights Commissioner’s view of gays vs traditionalist South African view of gays (LGBTI) By Melanie Nathan May 08, 2012 South Africa emerged from the Apartheid era with a “never again” zest; but now that fervor is being tested with members of the South African Parliament, who took oaths to uphold […]