Mbeki: Govt committed to role of traditional leaders

The government remains committed to protecting and strengthening the role of traditional leaders in South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.

Addressing the opening session of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Cape Town, he said the major challenge revolved around the implementation of legislation and programmes across the country.

Following the Cabinet’s approval of the White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance in 2003, the national framework legislation was enacted the same year and provinces followed suit with the complementary provincial legislation.

While some provinces were still in the process of finalising the required legislation dealing with the local houses of traditional leaders, the policy and legislative foundations were firmly in place.

The legislative framework in respect of traditional leadership was currently being refined.

The Bill dealing with the civil and criminal jurisdiction of traditional leaders was being finalised by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and would be tabled in Parliament by the end of May, Mbeki said.

The implementation of the Framework Act on Traditional Leadership had revealed that the Act required further refinement, especially as regards the issues of the efficient functioning of the Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims Commission.

Equally, more refinement was needed with regard to institutional support to kings and queens and other challenges regarding provincial peculiarities.

The necessary Bill was currently being drafted and would be subjected to a process of public consultation before its enactment.

The regulations dealing with the role of kings and queens would also be finalised during the current year.

Mbeki said the government was also aware of the challenges relating to the well-being of traditional leaders and all members of structures within the institution of traditional leadership.

The Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, in consultation with the government and houses of traditional leaders, was investigating these matters and in due course an announcement would be made in this regard.

“Beyond this, I would like to underline that we will continue to focus on the further strengthening of the institution of traditional leadership this year.

“In this context I am happy to convey our sincere appreciation of the participation of the traditional leaders in the transformation of traditional authorities to traditional councils and the establishment of local houses of traditional leaders.”

Gender and other quotas had been achieved in all of these structures and in certain instances had been exceeded.

This had further contributed to the acceptance of these structures by society in general.

“I am happy to announce that 65% of traditional councils have already been transformed, while 70% of local houses have been established,” Mbeki said.—Sapa

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