The Presidential Years

In April 1999, shortly before his term as President came to an end, he attended the installation of Chief Patekile Holomisa, president of Contralesa. It was a moment to reflect on the path taken by the democratic government.

Our oppressors sought constantly to undermine traditional authority and to separate the leaders from their own people, and they did sometimes succeed. However true leaders managed to redirect their energies towards the advancement and development of their own people.

The challenge now is to marry our two traditions - traditional authority and electoral democracy - into one, so that we can better improve the lives of our people. Today we recognise one who exercised his leadership in embracing that challenge: as part of the delegation of traditional leaders that went to Zambia in 1988 to meet with President OR Tambo; as President of Contralesa; and as an ANC Member of Parliament.

Democracy has brought a better life for traditional leaders. Government has demonstrated its faith in traditional leaders and acknowledged the role they can play in building our nation. New national and provincial houses of traditional leaders allow them to help determine provincial and national policy. Together we are seeking the best way for traditional leaders to play a role in local government.

The task of marrying our two traditions is still to be completed. It must be fulfilled as we reconstruct and develop a society shattered by apartheid, in particular our rural areas. We must put together what was broken when communities were displaced and forcibly removed from their land; when the migrant labour system separated families and plunged whole regions of our country into poverty; when bantustans were used to divide us as people.

Democracy has brought us the chance to mend the fabric our society and make our country a better place for all. In the past five years we have fought to reshape our government so that it will serve not a minority but all the people of our country. The old apartheid laws have been swept away and new laws have been passed to make change possible. Though progress has been difficult the changes are happening and they are there for all of us to see.….

But there is one critical matter that must be addressed if we are to return our land to prosperity.

The oppression of our people was sustained by a system that created division out of our rich diversity. As our forebears overcome the disunity that stood in the way of our regaining our freedom; so today our traditional leaders, along with our religious leaders, must be in the forefront of fighting for peace and unity amongst the people. In so doing, they will also be strengthening themselves as institutions - religious and traditional - because their position will be all the more firmly established when there is peace and the steady improvement in the lives of the people that peace makes possible.

As we approach our second democratic elections, I take this opportunity to appeal to our traditional leaders, and to all others with influence in our society, to ensure that our people go out in their numbers and vote. Participation is the lifeblood of democracy. We must emerge from these elections even more united as a nation, so that with a new generation of leaders we can move still faster along the road to a better life.353

In other words, some progress had been made; but it was for the next administration to take matters further.