By Sola Lawanson
The essential role of traditional rulers in the economic and cultural development of South Africa and other nations was the subject of one of the panels at the Africa Summit: Honouring the Legacy of Nelson Mandela.
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, one of his priorities was to meet with traditional leaders, said Chief Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, the eldest grandson of the South African anti-apartheid icon.
“He believed traditional leaders needed to be playing a key role in our political transformation of a new dawn, and in this regard, he called on many to get a good education. He believed education was a weapon that could be utilized to change the world … [and] he wanted to ensure that traditional leaders were highly educated so they would be able to play a meaningful role in the development of society.”
Even 25 years into our democracy, the rural areas of South Africa remain shortchanged, said Chief Mandela, who is president of the Universal Peace Federation’s (UPF) International Association of Traditional Leaders for Peace. In Madiba’s birthplace, for instance, the community still lacks clean, drinkable water and proper sanitation, he said, using the term of affection for South Africa’s first elected black president.
Solutions, according to the panelists, include strengthening unity among chiefs and traditional rulers, voluntary intermarriage between people of differing tribes, and cultivating a stronger determination to downplay political divisions. “Remember, we are all one nation, under God,” one chief said.