Nqadu - President Jacob Zuma said on Friday that the first coronation of a Xhosa king marked the end of the painful era and ushered in a new beginning of strengthening the identity of Africans.
He was speaking at the coronation ceremony of the new Xhosa king, King Mpendulo "Zwelonke" Sigcawu at the Nqadu royal palace in Willowvale, Eastern Cape.
The event also marked the first coronation of the amaXhosa king in 50 years.
Before delivering his speech, Zuma broke protocol and asked the new king to take a seat on the throne.
“I am an old man now, I am allowed to break protocol. I want him to take his seat on the throne before I address you,” he said in Xhosa to loud cheers.
Zuma told the gathering that the coronation should be celebrated because it was the first of its kind since the dawn of democracy.
“We as government today, in partnership with the royal family and the Xhosa nation as a whole are celebrating the coronation of King Sigcawu.
“The democratic government undertook a long and difficult, but necessary, process of correcting the wrongs of the past through the Nhlapho Commission on the traditional leadership. We are today confirming the findings of the commission.
'Custodians of culture, customs'
“I am happy that the traditional leaders have spoken in a unified voice about what we are today. This coronation today marks the end of the painful era of colonialism subjugation and oppression and ushers in a new beginning of strengthening who we are as Africans and how our society is structured or organised.”
Zuma said government was aware of the role the king had already played in the community and it was looking forward to working with him in implementing the local government "back to basics" programme.
“Traditional leaders are the custodians of culture, customs and tradition.”
Zuma told the new king to look after the Xhosa nation.
“Usiphathe kahle isizwe samaXhosa,” said Zuma in isiXhosa.
“You must grow as big as the mountain and you must look after your nation. This day will be marked in history. And as we continue to work together, we are here to rebuild the nation.”
Zuma then addressed the sensitive issue of land claims.
The matter was raised earlier by chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Kgosi Pontsho, when he was addressing the gathering.
Pontsho said: “Traditional leaders who were dispossessed must claim their land back. We dare not fail our people on the issues of land.”
'We are going to get there'
Zuma said government was working on the land claims issue.
“We need to work together in the land claims. We are correcting what was wronged decades and decades ago. We are going to get there, it will take some time.
“Our responsibility is to rebuild this nation, we are not going to destroy what we have built. We are going to build it the way we fought apartheid," he said.
"The land issue is a really big issue and I know we wouldn’t have been able to get our freedom if we weren’t united back then. I am happy you are united because when it comes to the land claims issues you need to be united.
"One person can’t come and say that you are making a claim on my land. When we are united, we can raise money and afford good lawyers.
'The nation is sick and needs healing'
“We promised to deal with the land claims issue within the Constitution's boundaries. We must do it and make it happen. I have always believed in sitting and talking about things, nothing will go right if we fight, things come right after a long time of negotiating.” said Zuma.
He said infighting had to stop.
“Let us stop all of this fighting. Our people are hungry. The nation is sick and needs healing. People are sick, they are smoking dagga and eating these pills, they are raping," Zuma said.
“People must stop blaming the government for everything. What are you doing to solve the problem?"
Zuma then presented the monarch with a certificate of recognition.
Delivering his first speech as king, Sigcawu raised various issues plaguing the Xhosa nation, and asked for government to step in.
“My people are poor. The nation I am looking after is hungry. Most of the people here depend on the government grants," he said.
“Our education standards are very poor, we need qualified teachers Mr President. We need you build us good quality schools."