Ramaphosa calls on traditional leaders to help get South Africans to the polls

2019-02-19 19:00
President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (GCIS)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa called on traditional leaders to ensure all South African citizens are able to exercise their democratic right to vote.

"In just under three months' time, on 8 May, South Africans will go to the polls in national and provincial elections," Ramaphosa said in his annual address at the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders on Tuesday.

"We urge traditional leaders to continue to encourage all eligible voters to register and participate in these elections. We call on traditional leaders to actively promote free and fair campaigning and to ensure that all voters are able to exercise their democratic right."

Ramaphosa relied on the themes of his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) but focused his speech towards a rural perspective.

But first, he recognised the role of traditional leaders.

"The institution of traditional leadership in South Africa stretches into antiquity, representing an unbreakable bond between our people's past and their present," he said. 

"It is a living reminder of who we are and where we come from, of the traditions that sustain us and the values that guide us."

He said traditional leadership was also an essential part of South Africa's future and the Constitution envisages it as an integral part of a South African nation that is united in its diversity.

Accelerating growth and job creation

He said traditional leaders would have a critical role to play in the five tasks he identified in his SONA – accelerating inclusive economic growth and creating jobs; education; improving the living conditions of all South Africans, especially the poor; stepping up the fight against corruption and state capture; and strengthening the capacity of the state to address the needs of the people.

"The most direct way out of poverty for our people is through employment and other productive economic activity such as small and medium business ownership and exploiting our natural resources," Ramaphosa said.

He spoke of the investment drives he initiated last year and said this included investment in the agricultural economy. He said there was "unrealised potential in the rural areas". 

He said rural economic development features prominently in the economic stimulus and recovery plan which was announced in September last year. 

This package includes support measures for black commercial farmers to increase their entry into food value chains through access to infrastructure such as abattoirs and feedlots.

He said government has finalised 30-year leases with nearly 900 farmers to enable them to mobilise funding for agricultural development.

"These measures are part of the broader effort to unleash an agricultural revolution in South Africa. The epicentre of this revolution will be in the rural areas of our country," he said, touching on a theme of his address to the house last year.

He thanked traditional leaders for their participation in the process to review section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.

'Sunrise industry'

Ramaphosa said another industry with great potential to uplift rural areas is mining. 

"We see mining as a sunrise industry," he said. 

He acknowledged that the mining industry had caused harm to rural communities over the years.

"While much has changed since the advent of democracy, there is still much to do to ensure that mining brings real and lasting benefits to rural communities.

"Traditional leaders are well-placed to ensure that the new Mining Charter is effectively implemented in their respective areas," Ramaphosa said.

"Education is the key to development and prosperity, and it is essential that no child in the country is left behind," Ramaphosa said.

"We are looking to traditional leaders to assist in the huge task of achieving universal enrollment in early childhood development, which is particularly challenging in rural areas."

He said innovative ways must be found to overcome problems of distance and a lack of infrastructure and suitably qualified personnel.

Fight against gender-based violence

"To ensure that learners in rural areas are not left behind by the digital revolution, the first phase of our programme to provide digitised textbooks and workbooks on tablets will target multigrade, multiphase, farm and selected rural schools from 2020." 

He said government is also investing resources and effort into developing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in rural areas.

"Because TVET colleges have a greater reach into rural areas than universities, they offer far more opportunities for skills development for rural youth."

Ramaphosa said he applauded the role that traditional leaders have been playing in confronting gender-based violence.

"The national house is a critical partner to government on issues of gender-based violence, femicide, violence perpetrated against the LGBTQI+ community, the elderly and other vulnerable groups in society.

"To end the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide requires that we collectively conduct a public education campaign that confronts the persistence of patriarchal values and practices."

Initiation schools

His call to work together to ensure gender representation in leadership structures did not elicit applause.

When he said government looks to traditional leaders to work with it and communities to find solutions to the needless deaths of young men during initiation schools, there was enthusiastic applause.

"This ancient rite of passage should never be allowed to become synonymous with death and serious injury."

He also called on traditional leaders to be part of efforts to stamp out corruption.

"Not only must traditional authorities themselves be above reproach, but they have an important role to play in ensuring that local government structures, in particular, are free from corruption and patronage," he said.

Ramaphosa's announcement that a task team would make proposals on the powers and functions of traditional leaders and any amendments to legislation was also met with enthusiastic applause. 

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  politics  |  women abuse  |  elections 2019

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