The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize, joined communities in Moletjie Moshate on Thursday for a public dialogue on the protection of human rights within traditional leadership structures and communities.
MEC for Coghsta Jerry Ndou accompanied the minister to, Moletjie Moshate, the home of Kgoshi Kgabo Moloto.
Traditional leaders, including the chairpersons of the national and provincial House of Traditional Leaders, Ikosi SE Mahlangu and Kgoshi Dikgale, respectively, mayor of Polokwane, Thembi Nkadimeng, leaders from civil society and faith-based organisations also attended the event.
The dialogue with traditional leaders is part of the ongoing commemoration of Human Rights month held under the theme, “Not In My Culture”, meaning that there is no culturally-based justification that we can make for violating human rights and particularly the rights of women in our society, the minister said.
“One of our greatest achievements was to have a democratic constitution incorporating the Bill of Rights informed by two important documents in the history of the struggle for human justice, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Freedom Charter,” Mkhize said.
The rights of vulnerable communities in rural areas was highlighted during the discussions. Mkhize said that in line with the theme of the dialogue, for communities to be stable, the institution and structure of traditional leadership must be transformed to be inclusive, non-sexist and non-racial.
“Issues such as customary marriage, divorce, inheritance, land tenure and many others still reflect the lingering bias and oppression against women.
“We urge traditional leaders to play an important part to protect women and say “Not in my Culture,” Mkhize said.
“Members of the LGBT communities and those living with albinism endure abuse in some communities. Some are even killed for nefarious ends, such as mutilation for muti purposes. We must also protect older women, grandmothers, who are accused of witchcraft in some communities and are attacked.
Delegates spoke about the protection of young women from practices such as ukuthwala where they are abducted by and forced into marriages, or ukungena if women are forced to marry relatives of their late husbands against their will.
“Mkhize urged traditional leadership to be a safety net for all vulnerable persons and groups, so that everyone is safe in the country and traditional courts should be able to affirm all these rights and refer matters beyond their jurisdiction to higher courts,” the Minister added.
“Indigenous languages are our heritage; they foster cohesion in our communities. Therefore, language, including sign language, is also a very important right enjoyed under freedom of cultural expression in our constitution and it is through it that we preserve our history and heritage, it is through it that we engage on daily basis and establish common ground on many aspects of our life; it weaves the communities together.”
Delegates agreed that women should live as full equals, without any fear of violence, enjoying protection, where they are able to play very influential roles and have vowed to do more and opportunities for all, including women.
“The message of the day was clear, there are no cultural or traditional practices that should constitute violations of human right and dignity, and all stakeholders agreed to work together towards achieving human rights for all,” Mkhize said.