15 April 2005

Madame Chairperson, Ms Ruth Ntshulana-Bhengu;

Honourable members of the Portfolio Committee;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I welcome this opportunity of presenting the interim annual report for the financial year-end 2004/2005 on matters relating to the functioning and operations of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL).

The introductory considerations which I wish to place before this committee, moved from the premises that the NHTL is an important institution/organ of state, which has an important role to play. It was for this reason that I thought it incumbent upon me to make a few observations to stress the importance of the house and its role. The NHTL and Provincial Houses have undertaken a process of transformation, which intends to give to them a more important, and salient role. We aimed at becoming the centre of co-ordination of the important contributions which traditional leadership can and must play in the governance, development, progress and upliftment of traditional communities. Accordingly, our Houses have established several committees, which reflect the line function responsibilities and certain other aspects of the national, provincial and local governments. However, the work of our committees has not yet commenced because of lack of capacity due to lack of required resources.

Like traditional leadership, the Houses of Traditional Leaders find themselves interfacing with the national, provincial and local spheres of government, as they co-ordinate activities of traditional leaders and their communities. Traditional leaders are often called upon to act as agents of the national government in respect of a variety of matters ranging from Home Affairs to Justice, to perform functions in terms of provincial laws, and must interface constantly in administrative procedures relating to land development and other local government matters.

In addition to our developmental role, we are a unique institution in that we need to interface both with the legislative and the executive branches of government. We have a consultative function to perform, in respect of the activities of this Parliament as they relate to any subject matter, which may affect traditional communities of our indigenous and customary law.

By the same token we have a consultative function to perform in respect of the executive dealing with the formulation of government's policies, programmes and actions affecting traditional communities. For this reason the NHTL cannot be regarded as part of the executive, or as an instrumentality of any department including the Department of Provincial and Local Government.

In spite of the NHTL having such a unique position in our system of government, it is placed in an impossible and untenable situation. At present we have no budget of our own and all our finances are dealt with by the Department of Provincial and Local Government. There is no need for this to happen because this House has been listed in terms of the Public Finance Management Act and therefore, has the capacity of receiving and managing its own funding on the basis of its own budget, for which it would account to this committee and this Parliament through the department.

Throughout our system of government, both in the national and the provincial spheres, there are a number of entities, statutory bodies and commissions, which have their own budgets and operate on the basis of it. Most of such bodies do not have the type of distinct role, which our Houses are required to have both from the executive and the legislature. In spite of many of such bodies often being part and parcel of a department, and being intimately connected to the exercise of that department's functions, such bodies have their own budget and they administer it in autonomy.

So, therefore, more than many other statutory bodies, entities and commissions, our House necessitates a budget and the autonomy necessary to exercise it, so as to fund its functions. Therefore, I come before this committee to express two very grave separate but connected concerns: one being that our House has almost no resources and we are paralysed by this.

The second concern is that the little resources we do have available to us are administered and managed by the department. This latter aspect has led to absurd situations such as our having to receive the department's approval before we can buy even refreshments when we hold public meetings to which stakeholders are invited, on the same basis that this committee usually lays out refreshments when holding public hearings/road shows.

We feel that the present lack of autonomy, which the House is constrained by, is not in line with the constitution. Chapter 12 of the Constitution puts it clear that the institution of traditional leadership is not an instrumentality of the executive and cannot be subservient to any given department. The Constitution has entrenched the institution of traditional leadership as a self-standing one, which within the greater scheme of co-operative governance co-operates with municipalities, provincial and national government and this parliament.

Making traditional leadership an organ of a department instead of rnaking it an organ of government, smacks of bad habits of a bygone era, which sought to make traditional leadership part of the system of indirect rule.

From the Constitutional and legal viewpoint, traditional leadership owed respect. The measure in which such a Constitutional respect ought to be delivered, is by providing the traditional leadership and its institutions with the capacity of making, financing and implementing their own decisions.

There are many symptoms, which indicate how the government often does not respect decisions of traditional leadership, as it has been the case in respect of, for example;

the decision of government that we may not use the Parliamentary Chambers for our sittings,

the decisions of Houses of Traditional Leaders to be provided with their own chambers,

the decisions that full time members of the NHTL be provided with government accommodation and transport.

the decisions of traditional leaders that the NHTL must be provided with a Parliamentary Officer,

and to have all or at least half of its members and that of the Provincial Houses serving on full time basis.

Furthermore, our decision for our term of office to be reconciled with those of all Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, has also not been respected. I wish to reiterate that suitable buildings or venues of our own are not only important to enable us to exercise our functions but also to symbolically demonstrate the often spoken about, but never implemented, commitments to uphold, protect and restore the integrity and status of the institution of traditional leadership as it was badly tempered with during the colonial and apartheid regimes.

Lastly, but not least, lack of resources has also hindered us to respond positively and effectively to call by the National Minister of Health and the President of this country, South Africa and other leaders directed to traditional leaders to be fully involved in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Many programmes in this regard have been developed but could not be implemented or take-off because of lack of the necessary resources. With such programmes, our Houses were meant to exercise the rote of a clearing House, to share and distribute information and to co-ordinate programmes and resources in respect of HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. Because of lack of such necessary resources, the House cannot even begin to exercise such role as a consequence our people continue to suffer and many of them will have to die unnecessarily.

Chair, I want to end by sharing with you great words and dreams of a great African leader named Herbert Chitego from Zimbabwe. He dreamt of the impact of "The African Personality" as a generative and enriching force upon the world politics and the world social order in general.

Chair I was highly impressed and enlightened to hear our President, Mr TM Mbeki, stating it clearly in his speech of opening the NHTL on the 7'h of April 2005, that in no way can we make the African Renaissance a reality if traditional leaders are not part and parcel of the process.

Chairperson and honourable committee members, certainly time has come and is ripe for traditional leadership to be incorporated and considered beyond any reasonable doubt as a legitimate and important part of the leadership of New Africa.

Certainly these are great thinkers and visionaries who have unbounded visions, dreams and souls and who always dream of an "African" impact on the entire human kind.

I thank you.