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Congress of Traditional Chiefs and the ANC`s appeal to all Traditional Leaders of South Africa

19 August 1989

The Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the African National Congress (ANC) met on the 19th of August 1989. Arising from the detailed and serious deliberations between the two delegations, the meeting issued the following appeal to all traditional leaders of our country:

Dear Compatriots! Dear traditional leaders!

Our country, South Africa, is in the midst of severe crisis. The white minority government is neither prepared nor capable to resolve this crisis in the interest of all South Africa`s people. Instead, it has resorted to more violence, more detentions and more sweet-sounding but meaningless words.

The future of our motherland lies in the hands of the people, the victims of oppression and dispossession, and the courageous fighters against this evil system. Among these multitudes are hundreds of patriotic chiefs: deposed, harassed and even killed, but forever unbowed. We salute these brave patriots, deserved heirs of the glorious tradition of no surrender shown by our forebears in the wars of resistance of past centuries.

Our traditional leaders feel very keenly the effects of the apartheid system. The very institution of chieftainship has been overturned and abused by the racist rulers. From leaders responsible and responsive to the people, you are being forced by the regime to become its paid agents. From being a force for unity and prosperity you are turned into perpetrators of division, poverty and want among the oppressed. The so-called homeland system, land deprivation, forced removals and the denial of basic political rights - all these and more are the anti-people policies that the white ruling clique forces the chiefs to implement on its behalf.

Nothing demonstrates the defilement of our traditions more glaringly than the deposition of traditional leaders who have taken a bold stand against apartheid and its by-product, the bantustan system.

In the name of our forebears, we cannot allow this to continue. In the name of freedom, justice and peace, traditional leaders must play their role in the fight against apartheid.

We call on all traditional leaders:

  • Refuse to implement the oppressive policies of the white minority government and join the people to achieve a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa.
  • Join the mass struggles: against the bantustan system, against forced removals, against the State of Emergency, for the release of political prisoners and detainees, for the return of the land to the people as a whole...
  • Unite with all South Africans of goodwill to stop the carnage among the people in Natal and ensure that peace and anti-apartheid united action prevail.
  • Swell the ranks of democratic organisations, in particular Contralesa, and link your structures to those of other democratic formations.

Dear compatriots! Dear traditional leaders!

You have an important role to play NOW in the struggle against apartheid. Your place is in the front ranks of the mass democratic offensive. Let us together shape the future South Africa in which justice, peace and prosperity will reign.