Address by President Nelson Mandela at installation of His Highness Thovhela Toni Peter Mphephu Ramabulana of Venda, Ndzelele

28 November 1998

Your Royal Highness Thovhela Mphephu Ramabulana;
Premier of the Northern Province;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a privilege to be invited to this special event where government, traditional leaders and the community are joining hands as South Africans to inaugurate a leader of our people.

Your Majesty;

I have come here not only to witness and celebrate an important event. I have also come to pay my respects to a royal house which goes back many generations.

I am personally deeply honoured to attend the installation of His Highness Thovhela Toni Mphephu Ramabulana as heir to the Venda traditional leadership.

The Ramabulana royal house is renowned throughout our land for its militant anti-colonial struggles, a legacy dating from the days of Thohoyandou, Makhado Ramabulana, Mphephu Ramabulana and others.

Today we pay tribute to the bravery of the Ramabulana soldiers who defended their land against invasion, who turned the tide at Schoemansdal and preserved the independence of their people into this century.

Traditional leadership in our country has lived for centuries and will continue to do so. It is our pride as the people of South Africa, and a tradition that cannot be divorced from us.

The institution survived under very difficult times during the dark era of dispossession. Our oppressors sought constantly to undermine traditional authority and to separate the leaders from their own people. However true leaders managed to redirect their energies towards the advancement and development of their own people.

Today we have a democratic government we can all be proud of, and one which respects our traditions. That is why we have traditional leaders represented in both national and provincial government and why we are seeking agreement on the best way for traditional leaders to play a role in local government.

That is also why government decided, after consultation, to put the remuneration of traditional leaders on a basis that reflects their status in its different ranks.

Democracy has brought us the opportunity to rebuild a society torn apart by colonial and apartheid rule, in particular, the rural areas. We must put together what was broken when communities were displaced and forcibly removed from their land, when families were separated by the migrant labour system; and when bantustans were used to divide us as a people.

Now that we have put that history behind us, traditional leaders now occupy a critical place in the great partnership of all social sectors whose joint effort will make our country just and prosperous. Government alone cannot transform this country, but as a united nation we will succeed.

Together we can eradicate apartheid's legacy of poverty and unemployment. That challenge is greatest in our rural areas, which are the most disadvantaged.

This Northern Province is one of our poorest, and that is why it has been one focus of our Rural Anti-Poverty Programme. The emphasis of that Programme is on creating opportunities for women; encouraging participation of communities in their own upliftment; and building capacity for our local authorities to work with national and provincial government to meet needs of communities.

Traditional leaders are well-placed to help us achieve these goals, and we count on your support. Indeed, in all the major challenges facing our country, we know that you will help our nation to meet its goals.

Although we have been able during these past four and half years of freedom to bring clean water, electricity, telephones, health care and decent education to millions of our people, especially in rural areas, it is only the start of a task that will take years to complete. With your help we can speed up delivery and reach those whose needs must still be met.

I would also take this opportunity, if I may, to make an appeal to our traditional leaders, and to all other people of influence in the community, to ensure that the registration of voters and the forthcoming elections are a success. Participation is the lifeblood of democracy, and it is democracy that is bringing peace and prosperity back to South Africa and to Venda.

In conclusion, may I congratulate Your Royal Highness, Thovhela Toni Mphephu in your assumption of your new responsibilities. Yours will be no easy task, because the needs of our people are great and they deserve a better life. But together we can make a reality of our dream of dignity regained and a better life for all our people.

May you enjoy many years of good life and good relationship with your people and that of South Africa at large.

I thank you all.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website