National House of Traditional Leaders challenges and successes by Minister and NHTL

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

28 May 2012
Chairperson: Ms Nlhengethwa. D. (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister in his opening remarks noted that one of the areas in which the footprint of the role of the National House was clear was in coordinating the activities of the provincial houses. It made sure that there was a successive configuration of the leadership of traditional houses in the provinces as well as national. As a result of the successive elections the next house to be constituted would be the fifth house. The Department would soon lead a process to elect the fifth house. The elections at national would be taking place once provinces had finalised their elections. One of the challenges was the absence of alignment of terms. The impact was that the national house term would come to an end when the provincial terms were still running. This matter was being addressed through engagement with the Premiers of the province and traditional leaders. The target was to have the fifth term by mid June.

Further successes were the transformation of matters related to traditional affairs. Working together, the Department had now created space to advance the settlement of disputes. The Department had contributed and assisted the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims that dealt with these disputes. The National House played an important role in assisting government in how to deal with these cases. The Department was involved in a legislative programme meant to enhance the institutions of traditional house. The Department was busy reviewing four pieces of legislation. The challenges affecting the institution were both historical and developmental. The Department had established councils of traditional leaders which would bring in an aspect of democracy while preserving tradition. Sixty per cent of the members of the traditional councils would be appointed by traditional leaders while 40% would be voted by the people. The Department was working with the National House on the formula for establishing the Kings Council.

The NHTL Chief Executive Officer, in his presentation, said that among the successes of the National House of Traditional Leaders was that it had properly constituted a functional house of traditional leadership, with seven functional committees. The house had adopted a strategic and annual performance plan and reported quarterly and annual progress on its plans. The house engaged with partners and key stakeholders (Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Social Development, South African Local Government Association, Department of Justice & Constitutional Development) dealing with programmes that had an impact on traditional communities. In addition the house participated in cultural, traditional and customary events to promote indigenous knowledge systems and heritage. Also the house participated and provided inputs into pieces of draft legislation and policies developed by government such as Traditional Courts Bill, the National Traditional Affairs Bill, the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill. In order to promote cooperative governance, the house interacted with provincial houses of traditional leadership through the Chairpersons and Secretaries Fora which met regularly.

Governance structures had been established to align the work of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) portfolio, namely the MinNHTL-meeting between the Minister and National House of Traditional Leaders which took place monthly and MinEXCO-meeting between the Minister, the Department of Traditional Affairs and Chairperson and Deputy Chair of the House including Chairpersons and Deputies of other entities. Added to the success was the reconstitution of the houses. The National House of Traditional Leaders would be reconstituted in August 2012 after the provincial reconstitution process. The challenges faced by the NHTL were inconsistencies in the application of policies in different provinces and the appointment of headmen and headwomen. The Chief Executive Officer concluded by informing the Committee that there was a normal working relationship between the house and Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA). Currently there was a good working relationship between the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio and the National House. 

The Committee asked how one qualified to be King or traditional leader. In addition the Committee asked if the reconstitutions that were supposed to have taken placed had happened and how the inconsistencies were being dealt with. In addition the Committee asked if the statement by the NHTL Chairperson that chiefs were supposed to be apolitical was not contradictory as there were chiefs sitting in Parliament.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s Introductory Remarks
The Chairperson welcomed the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, officials from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and visiting parliamentarians from Mozambique. The Minister and NHTL delegation would brief the Committee on the challenges and successes experienced by the house and the establishment of provincial houses.

Minister’s Opening Remarks
The National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) since its establishment had gone far, working with the office of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Department. One of the areas in which the footprint of the role of the National House was clear was in coordinating the activities of the provincial houses. It made sure that, from time to time, there was a successive configuration of the leadership of traditional houses in the provinces as well as national. As a result of the successive elections the next house to be constituted would be the fifth house. The Department would soon lead a process to elect the fifth house. The elections at national would be take place once provinces had finalised their elections. One of the challenges was the absence of alignment of terms of office. The impact was that the national house term would come to an end when the provincial terms were still running. This matter was being addressed through engagement with the Premiers of the province and traditional leaders. The target was to have the fifth term by mid June.

Further successes were the transformation of matters related to traditional affairs. Working together, the Department had now created space to advance the settlement of disputes. The Department had contributed and assisted the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims that dealt with these disputes. The National House played an important role in assisting government in how to deal with these cases. The Department was dealing with a legislative programme meant to enhance the institution of traditional houses. The Department was busy reviewing four pieces of legislation. The National Traditional Affairs and Governance Framework Act was being reviewed and also the role that traditional leaders played in municipalities. The Department was also looking at legislation that dealt with remuneration of traditional leaders and issues related to the administration of justice by traditional leaders. The Traditional Courts Bill was in process in Parliament. The Department together with the traditional leaders was looking at regulating customary practices relating to initiation to avoid exposing communities to serious hazards. Initiation should not disrupt educational and other development programmes within the communities. The Department would finalise a policy that seeks to regulate these practices by the end of the financial year. The National House and provincial houses were agents of transformation. The challenges affecting the institution were both historical and developmental. The Department had established councils of traditional leaders which would bring in an aspect of democracy while preserving tradition. 60% of the members of the traditional councils would be appointed by traditional leaders while 40% would be voted by the people. The Department was working with the National House on the formula for establishing the Kings Council.

National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) briefing
Dr Wilson Makgalancheche, NHTL Chief Executive Officer, said that among the successes of the National House of Traditional Leaders was that it had properly constituted a functional house of traditional leadership, with seven functional committees. The house had adopted a strategic and annual performance plan and reported quarterly and annual progress on its plans. The house engaged with partners and key stakeholders (DRDLR, Social Development, SALGA, DoJ & CD, WCPD) dealing with programmes that had an impact on traditional communities. In addition the House participated in cultural, traditional and customary events to promote indigenous knowledge systems and heritage. The house provided inputs into pieces of draft legislation and policies developed by government such as the Traditional Courts Bill, the National Traditional Affairs Bill, the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Bill. In order to promote cooperative governance, the house interacted with provincial houses of traditional leadership through the Chairpersons and Secretaries Fora which met regularly.

Governance structures had been established to align the work of the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) portfolio, namely the MinNHTL-meeting between the Minister and National House of Traditional Leaders which took place monthly and MinEXCO-meeting between the Minister, the Department of Traditional Affairs and Chairperson and Deputy Chair of the House including Chairpersons and Deputies of other entities. Added to the success was the reconstitution of the houses. The Free State provincial house was reconstituted on 15 May 2012, North West local houses would be reconstituted on 5 June and provincial house on 6 June, Limpopo local houses were due to be reconstituted on 23 May and provincial house on 25 May and KwaZulu Natal would be reconstituted by the end of July 2012. In addition the Northern Cape local houses were due to be reconstituted on 23 May and provincial house on 25 May. Mpumalanga members for local houses were elected, however they did not meet the one-third gender requirement so the process would be redone but no new dates had been provided. The Eastern Cape reconstituted provincial house and inauguration would be on 4 May 2012. Gauteng should not pose any challenges as they only had two traditional councils and their senior traditional leaders would become the members of the National House.
The National House of Traditional Leaders would be reconstituted in August 2012 after the provincial reconstitution process.

The challenges faced by the NHTL were inconsistencies in the application of policies in different provinces and the appointment of headmen and headwomen. The Chief Executive Officer concluded the presentation by informing the Committee that there was a normal working relationship between the house and Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA). Currently there was a good working relationship between the COGTA portfolio and the National House. 

Discussion
Two members, Mr G Boinamo (DA) & Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP), asked how one qualified to be King or traditional leader.

Kgosi P Maubane, NHTL Chairperson, replied that being a king was by inheritance. One inherited from a bloodline. It was therefore by virtue of a birthright that one became a king or traditional leader. Succession followed the bloodline. Being a king required a number of senior traditional leaders in one’s area of jurisdiction reporting directly to one as king. It depended on particularities of customs of a particular nation.

Ms W Nelson (ANC) asked if the reconstitutions that were supposed to have taken place had happened.

Dr Makgalancheche replied that Mpumalanga was due to re-elect after disrespecting the gender representivity on 14 June. Western Cape was excluded as it had no recognised traditional leaders and Gauteng had only two that would automatically form part of the National House in terms of the Act. With regards to the Eastern Cape, elections had taken place but there were still issues to be ironed out before it could be finalised. All the other provinces were on track.

Ms Nelson asked how the inconsistencies were being dealt with

The NHTL Chairperson replied that the inconsistencies referred to the alignment of terms of offices. Provinces were required to align their term with that of the National House so that both terms could end at the same time. One was at National by virtue of being a member of a provincial house of traditional leaders.

Dr Masenjana Sibande, Acting Director General: Department of Traditional Affairs, added that KwaZulu Natal had not aligned its legislation with the National Framework Act and had been doing its own thing. They recently got a legal opinion that they needed to align and had requested a little bit of time to reconstitute until August this year. Free State had done their reconstitution but their legislation was still in a Bill form. The Department was helping them finalise their piece of legislation. Eastern Cape had not done the alignment in terms of the legislation but went ahead and reconstituted. These three provinces had to get their act right. The rest were doing okay.  Mpumalanga had to reconstitute to accommodate the one-third gender requirement.

Mr Buinamo asked how disputes were resolved when they occurred.

The NHTL Chairperson replied that there was a commission in place that had established provincial committees that were dealing with claims and disputes.

Mr Boinamo asked if the statement by the NHTL Chairperson that chiefs were supposed to be apolitical was not contradictory, as there were chiefs sitting in Parliament.

The NHTL Chairperson replied that a traditional leader was seen to be central and neutral to build unity among their people with different political interests. This was the position that was understood to apply to traditional leaders but there were those that chose to join political parties. A traditional leader that joined a political party had to relinquish the position of traditional leader when that person became a politician. Adherence was difficult but that was the position - traditional leaders should play an apolitical role.  

The Chairperson asked whether, as part of the initiation programmes, the Department was taking the Department of Education on board to ensure that schooling was not disturbed.

Dr Makgalancheche replied that one of the provinces had come up with a policy that outlined the qualifications for one to establish an initiation school for boys. This was not a free for all and those engaging in this practice had to put in an application that would be considered by a committee at the provincial house. The Departments of Education, Health, Social Development and the South African Police Service had also been included in this programme. The police enforced the law and ensured no one was taken by force whereas the Department of Health ensured hygiene was adhered to during and after the initiation. There had to be an agreement with the Department of Education to ensure schools were not disrupted by having initiation when schools were not active.

The Chairperson asked how those that attended initiation were helped to recover missed schoolwork. 

Dr Makgalancheche replied that if initiation required an extension beyond the school holidays, the Department of Education was approached to come to the party with a catch-up programme. 

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) asked what the situation was with those that claimed to be chiefs but were not.

Dr Makgalancheche replied that if there were issues known to the Committee, these could be communicated in writing so that the National House could use that as a base for intervention.

Mr Boinamo asked if there were any mechanisms to discipline chiefs that were politicians but still wanted to exercise their traditional authority.

Dr Makgalancheche replied that the Constitution was the basis for interaction in South Africa. If one decided as an individual to be a political leader, in terms of the right to association, the consequences was to relinquish one’s traditional leadership and have someone else take over. In terms of regulating this, the house had not come up with mechanisms. The institution was transforming and developing and this was one area that needed to be looked into.

The meeting was adjourned.

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