A programme to empower Eastern Cape traditional leaders with knowledge and skills to deal with social ills, and which has been met with mixed feelings, is set to start this month.
A decision taken by the national Department of Social Development will see traditional leaders embarking on six months of training. The idea is being opposed by some who believe there is too much instability within the royal kingdom, illiteracy among traditional leaders and widespread corruption.
But others are in favour of the development because they believe that traditional leaders are accepted by the people within their communities, and always receive firsthand information about any occurrences in the community.
Ongoing leadership disputes
Villager Lungu Vimba said while people generally acknowledge their traditional leaders within their communities, there is uncertainty that the leaders will be able to deal with sensitive matters among the people while battling their own traditional leadership disputes.
“Traditional leaders barely have time to focus on constructive matters because of their ongoing leadership disputes. The department of Social Development should just delegate social workers to traditional houses,” said Vimba.
Athenkosi Njisane said corruption amongst traditional leaders themselves would hinder the success of the programme.
“Traditional leaders were given a responsibly to overlook the initiation process of boys to manhood. But it is still embedded with problems and they are failing. We still lose our brothers every initiation season now. If the leaders are given another such a huge responsibility they will not cope,” Njisane said.
But Bomikazi Mhlongo said traditional leaders should be given a chance.
“We cannot deny the fact that the traditional leaders are the people to consult in our communities. They should be given a chance – especially as they are going to undergo training,” she said.
Traditional leaders close to people
The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane Zulu, engaged with traditional leaders in Mthatha recently to brief them about the department’s programme that will be implemented in the Eastern Cape. The aim, she said, was to empower traditional leaders with knowledge and skills on how to deal with social ills within their communities.
“The programme is aimed at sensitising traditional leaders on social structural drivers of HIV with the view to reducing the social and behavioural factors driving the spread of HIV in communities. We plan to unfold the programme to the traditional leaders in Mthatha and introduce the trainer. We believe that traditional leaders are close to the people, so if we want to reach people in rural areas we are obliged to work together to address people’s challenges,” Bogopane Zulu said.
“The bigger picture is that we want to reduce stigma and discrimination on social ills experienced by people with regard to issues like HIV/Aids, gender-based violence, drug addiction and other social ills occurring in communities.”
Responding to opinions voiced by people, Eastern Cape’s Contralesa Chairperson Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana said it was time for traditional leaders to take responsibility and act upon challenges faced by communities.
“As leaders within the traditional leadership structure we are confident this programme will run smoothly for the benefit of our people. The Department of Social Development has a bigger plan of ensuring that there are social workers in traditional councils,” Nonkonyane said.
The programme is expected to commence in November and should be completed by March 2019. – Health-e News.
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