POLITICAL analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni has called for partnership between the local government and traditional leaders to improve rural communities. Speaking at the three-day Traditional Leader’s Summit, held at the Matatiele Town Hall from October 22 to October 24, Fikeni said some leaders are dragging down the country by looking after their families and serving personal interests rather than helping poor communities. He also said that decisions are taken at summits and workshops but implementation is delayed because some leaders prevent development for the purpose of satisfying their own interests. “Other leaders forget about children who sleep under bridges because of poverty. “Municipalities and ‘Inkosi’ (traditional leaders) need to work together to improve communities and lives of people,” he said when he delivered his keynote address. He added that the country is in a crisis because of a lack of honesty and courage from leaders.“Leaders must put people first, rather than focusing on themselves, and they should practice compassion. People need to be told the truth by their leaders,” he said. He called for traditional leaders to refrain from alcohol and drug abuse in order to gain more respect. He also asked the local government to provide offices from which traditional leaders could provide services to the community.The summit was an attempt to create dialogue between the institution of traditional leadership, government, and stakeholders. It was also aimed at promoting nation building and social cohesion in the context of “ubuntu”, to strengthen the role of traditional leaders in economic development and land matters. Matatiele Local Municipality speaker Nomasomi Mshuqwana said the country has witnessed terrible incidents like stock theft, crime, gender based violence, abduction of children and the abuse of women and children. She asked communities to restore the spirit of “ubuntu” by helping one another.Inkosi Jongilanga Sigcawu, the chairperson of the Local House of Traditional Leaders, said: “Poverty can be defeated if communities can make use of their land and schools to promote agricultural subjects.” Local farmers at the event were also told to brand their stock to end stock theft in Matatiele.