12 June 2006
South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki says traditional leaders should be inspired by Bhambatha Zondi’s 1906 war of colonial resistance and strive to ensure a better life for all in their communities.
Speaking at the Bhambatha centenary celebrations in Greytown on Sunday, Mbeki described the Chief Bhambatha as a leader who fought for liberation and changed people’s lives for the better, adding that traditional leaders need to follow in his footsteps.
As a way of paying tribute to Bhambatha, traditional leaders were encouraged to defend the country’s freedom by being united and working together in changing the lives of the poor.
“One of the lessons we learned from the struggle is that our strength lies in our unity.
“To pay tribute to Bhambatha, we must defend our freedom by paying attention to changing the lives of our society. We will only achieve this if South Africans act in unity,” said the president.
He said in the new South Africa, traditional leaders and government had to engage each other and determine the role of traditional leaders.
“So many people lost their lives fighting for the country’s freedom. As today’s event gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to the traditional leaders we must continue to engage each other until we find the right place of the traditional leaders in the new South Africa.
“We also have a responsibility as a country to make sure that our youth do not forget our history. It is important that young people born should know the challenges that were faced by the country and the reasons why there was a struggle.
Earlier, chairperson for the National House of Traditional Leaders, inkosi Mangosuthu Buthelezi appealed to Mbeki to make it easier for traditional leaders to communicate with government.
“The issue of traditional leadership remains unaddressed. To give significance to this celebration, it is essential that we do not let Inkosi Bhambatha’s call to die.
“The Bhambatha rebellion is still part and parcel of not only our history but indeed also our agenda,” inkosi Buthelezi said.
Inkosi Bhambatha was deposed of his chieftaincy by the governor of the then Natal province in 1906 after he resisted the imposition of the poll tax.
Bhambatha had been formally installed as the chief of the Zondi clan on 06 June 1890. At the time he had been vocal about the colonial rule which was “systematically” dispossessing people of their land.
On Sunday, Thabo Mbeki handed the certificate of Bhambatha’s posthumous appointment to one of his grandchildren, Chief Mbongeleni Zondi.
Chief Zondi said his clan felt honoured by the government’s willingness to commemorate their hero, saying today’s event was the fulfilment of their dream to see justice done.
He reminded government about challenges that the community still faced but expressed hope that with the reinstatement of their chieftaincy it would now be easier to address issues of development.