President Cyril Ramaphosa used his address to the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) to warn against the abuse of cultural practices which result in the violation of human rights, and urged traditional leaders to strengthen their role as custodians of culture.

President Ramaphosa addressed the annual opening of the NHTL in Parliament when he raised concerns about the high number of young men who die every year while undergoing customary initiation, which involves circumcision.

Customary initiation is a rite of passage for our young people to manhood and adulthood, but it has become increasingly infiltrated by unscrupulous people and many young men are being maimed or losing their lives,

We need to address the abuse of cultural practices that result in the violation of human rights. This includes forceful abductions to initiation schools.

It cannot be that every year we sit here and say the same thing about more needing to be done but the death toll continues to rise.

We urge traditional leaders as custodians of culture to take this cultural practice back into your hands and improve it accordingly, aid President Ramaphosa.

He further called on the traditional leaders to work with the South African Police Service to ensure that those who are involved in these unscrupulous practices are arrested and charged.

The Customary Initiation Bill that is currently before the National Council of Provinces is expected to serve as a critical empowering law to regulate the practice of customary initiation, once it becomes law.

He also told the traditional leaders that the government was implementing the District Development Model in three districts and will continue to roll it out to cover all 44 districts and 8 metros.

President Ramaphosa’s speech was later debated by the traditional leaders who used the opportunity to vent their frustration and unhappiness about a number of issues which included their benefits, roles and functions, among others.

Inkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, the Chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, called for the amendment of chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution. He also complained about the district model approach: Yes we have been consulted on the district model, but how can we be weak partners, there is no way municipal councillors can be our bosses, we are their bosses, the money must go to traditional authorities.

In the debate, the President of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa), Kgoshi Mathupa Mokoena also raised a concern about the role of traditional leaders in the district model.

Our request is that our role as traditional leaders be clarified in the district model, how do we get involved as Amakhosi, said Kgoshi Mokoena.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa