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Z. Mandela: Address to 2nd Africa Summit: Session 6

Address to Africa Summit 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 21–25, 2018


Your royal highnesses, your majesties, our traditional leaders, religious leaders and distinguished guests gathered here for this great session, good afternoon, and hoping that in this great session I won't be having any of you fall asleep.

I have been asked to speak this afternoon as a traditional leader and perhaps to locate where the Royal House of Mandela is. We are the Left-Hand House of King Ngubengcuka, who ruled from 1790 to 1832. And there is a number of Madibas here who have come all the way from the Eastern Cape to partake in this Africa Summit, and a number of traditional leaders who traveled across the landscape of our country to be part of these sessions.

Mandela in our family is whom we trace our family surname from, and he was my grandfather's grandfather. He gave birth to my grandfather's father, Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, who then gave birth to Rolihlahla, popularly known to the world as Nelson Mandela.

But my task is very simple this afternoon: to just share my grandfather's own interaction with traditional leaders. Madiba was very cognizant of who he was. The traditions and culture that were instilled in him at an early age enabled him to center his entire political career upon his own childhood upbringing. In this regard, when his father passed on, he was taken to be brought up by the then acting king Jongintaba Dalindyebo, who, as the regent, raised my grandfather to be a senior counselor to the future king Sabata Dalindyebo.

My grandfather and the son of the regent, Justice, were raised to be senior counselors and were given the best education to be able to do that. Their careers went separate ways when my grandfather was suspended at school for having led a hunger strike. The regent was quite upset about this, feeling the investment he had bestowed in my grandfather’s education had proven to be fruitless, and therefore decided it was time to ensure that this young person be given responsibilities. He arranged marriages for both my grandfather and his son.

Instead, the two young men decided to flee and go to Johannesburg, and that is how my grandfather arrived in Johannesburg and landed his first job as a security guard at a mine.

He became politically active. He was brought into the ANC (African National Congress) Youth League and the ANC and into the struggle for liberation. But during this entire period he always had his roots anchored at home.  He always engaged with our kin and also his cousins in the Right-Hand House.  The relationships have always been maintained, very strongly rooted in tradition and culture.

Thus, one of the many things my grandfather did upon his release, other than visit his friends and comrades who supported him during the struggle for liberation, was visit religious leaders across South Africa. But, most importantly, he went to every royal family, in terms of our kings and queens in South Africa. Many would recollect the numerous visits that Madiba made to traditional leaders, wanting to ready them for what was to unfold in the process of our country’s transition to democracy.

He believed traditional leaders needed to play a central and key role in our political transformation of a new dawn. In this regard, he called on many traditional leaders to go get a good education. He believed education was a weapon one could utilize to change the world. In order for the traditional leaders to fully understand the new political dispensation, he wanted to ensure they were highly educated and would be able to play a meaningful role in the development of society.

In some way or another some traditional leaders followed that call and ensured that they were able to transcend and look beyond their areas of rule.  And, see how they can work jointly in the transformation and development of our people, in its totality.

I am, therefore, fully honored and privileged to be appointed as the president of the International Association for Traditional Leaders for Peace and Prosperity which seeks, your majesties and royal highnesses, to ensure that areas under the governance and control of traditional leaders do not fall behind, become underdeveloped and become rife with joblessness.

We seek to ensure that we find meaningful solutions for the areas in which we are located, most of which are rural and face extreme poverty. When you look at the fiscal of every government under which we are designated, it is spent on infrastructure and, most importantly, centered around urban areas. Little of it filters through to the countryside, to rural areas where we are located.

In Madiba's birthplace, where I come from, in a tiny village located on the banks of the Mbashe River, we are a community without clean, drinkable water. Twenty-five years into our democracy we are a community still without proper sanitation. 

And, this issue of sanitation in South Africa tends to be two-fold. If an RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) house is built in a township or in an urban location, it has a flush toilet and water connected into it so that clean drinkable water can be accessed in the house. If such a house were built in a rural precinct such as that one where I live myself, it would be without access to clean drinkable water.

We, traditional leaders, can no longer be secondary citizens in our own countries. We want to be at the forefront of development, at the forefront of change and ensure that we are able to make a meaningful contribution to the work that we do.

It is this afternoon's session that enables traditional leaders to speak about their own experiences, their own interactions with Madiba, lessons they learned from his life and legacy—and how we, the next generation, can pick up the baton where he left off and charge forward and to see how we collectively can achieve the dream that he sought for our rural areas.

He often used to say to me when we were having conversations at home that, you know, all of us, the generation that I represent in the collective that took up the ANC youth leadership in 1944, came to the city, to Johannesburg to be laborers here and never forgot where we are from. Upon our release, and when we saw we were in our later years, we reminded each other of where we are from. I made a request to my colleagues that we should all return back home to ensure that we are able to contribute to the development of our areas.

Shortly before his passing, he reflected on this to realize that he was the only one left who was upholding this wish that they had to be buried in their places of origin. To this end, Madiba is buried in the tiny village of Qunu where his childhood memories are traced.

And this is to ensure that he exposes the dual citizenry that we are faced with in South Africa. I hope, National House of Traditional Leaders, this is a dialogue on which we can build. And that we can engage within our region, within our province and on the national level as traditional leaders. And that we can convene such meetings so that we can share ideas, learn what our wishes are and what we seek to achieve on an annual basis, and to ensure this commonality in the plans that we have.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs is where the work of the traditional leaders is located in the South African government. If you look at the budget of that department, as we often do, I can say that not even 2 percent of it is spent on the department of traditional affairs. Most of the budget, almost 98 percent of it, is spent on cooperative governance.

Traditional leaders are not equipped with the proper structure of governance and operation. It is something that I so wish, your royal highnesses, your majesties, and that we can start asking ourselves how we can be able to change our fate. How do we link with the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders? How do we link with the National House of Traditional Leaders?  How do we link with the regional house of traditional leaders in the five regions of Africa—the south region, the central region, the eastern region, the western region and the northern region?

And, how do we ensure that we have a continental body that is able to meet once a year to ensure that we share ideas, experiences so that we can have a proper system where information is flowing? But, most importantly, where do we mobilize such funds? Where do we get access to funding to be able to ensure that our work is realized?  I think this is something that ought to be looked at.

The World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other financial institutions often look at governments as the key entities to engage. I think we need to look to scholars who can lead us in this perspective, your majesties and royal highnesses; that is, how can we, traditional leaders, gain access to fund our own operations, to ensure that we build a better future for our citizenry.

I wish you all may have an enlightened discussion and dialogue this afternoon and that we can all learn from one another.  I thank you.



To go to the 2018 Africa Summit Schedule page, click here.