Pietermaritzburg, February 28, 2003

The Honourable Mr Speaker, Sir, Premier Dr LPHM Mtshali, Deputy State President Dr JG Zuma, Dr MG Buthelezi, Prince of KwaPhindangene, Minister of Home Affairs and Chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders in KwaZulu-Natal, Representatives from the National Council of Provinces, the Provincial Cabinet, the Royal Family, Amakhosi and Izinduna, Provincial and National Parliamentarians, Diplomatic Community representatives, representatives from other provinces, members of the media, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Today's official opening of the fourth session of the second KwaZulu-Natal Legislature is indeed an auspicious occasion and it is my pleasure to welcome you to share in these important proceedings.

The past twelve months, as you all know have not been very kind to me and the Royal Family as time and again we had to endure the pain of losing our beloved ones, some very tragically. We were, however, fortified by your heartfelt condolences and messages of support. May the souls of all of those untimely parted with us during the past year rest in peace.

This session of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Parliament opens in the aftermath of heightened political tension when it was announced that the legislature might be dissolved in favour of an early election. A sigh of relief permeated throughout the province and the whole of south Africa when the decision to dissolve the parliament was rescinded following a last minute compromise amongst the political parties who make up the coalition government in this province.

We are not oblivious to the fact that the compromise reached was a result of collective efforts on the part of coalition partners. Nevertheless special credit should go to the national leadership of the IFP and ANC who displayed political maturity and put aside their ideological differences in the national interest. For years this province has been plagued by intercine political strife which impacted negatively on economic growth and service delivery. Now that political violence seems to have abated after the first democratic elections in 1994, the climate is ripe for political leaders in this province to get down to the serious business of uplifting the standard of living of the people of this province.

The Jordinian King, His Majesty King Abdullah II, when addressing the World Economic Forum recently, said: "The 21th Century has opened billions of minds to the possibilities of better life - freedom, prosperity and hope. and people are demanding leaders who will get them there: In business and in government; in  neighbourhoods and nations, in every culture of the world, people want leadership that listens, leadership that serves, leadership that works. In short, people want to know that those they trust with their futures, have their futures at heart". I could not agree more with the sentiments expressed by His Majesty King Abdullah II. We would like to see responsible leaders who assume the duty of public service with a conviction and a belief in the need to make a positive and real difference in the lives of their people.

We are encouraged by reports that the general economic situation in South Africa is improving. this improvement is evidenced by the firming of the rand by more than 40 percent vis-à-vis other world currencies.

It is even more encouraging to hear that our province's economy grew at a rate of 3,6% as opposed to 2,8% for the whole of South Africa during the past financial year. Despite these positive developments on the economic front, we in KwaZulu-Natal cannot afford to be complacent. We must triple out efforts to stimulate the economy by attracting new local and foreign investments.

Thousands of our people, especially school leavers, flood the job market every year in search of job opportunities which do not exist. Latest statistics from Stats South Africa indicate that at least 34,3% if the economically active people of this province are not employed. I find it very difficult to reconcile this discrepancy between the improvement in the state of the economy on one hand, and the shocking high incidence of unemployment on the other. The bitter truth is that at this rate of growth, our economy will not be in the position to absorb all our people who continue to swell the job market every day: and the permanent solution cannot be found in the provision of hand-outs in the form of social grants. If foreign investors cannot create jobs for us, then we mush create jobs for ourselves.

It is now accepted world-wide that at least 80% of new jobs are created by the micro economic sector. And it is very strange that in our country this sector is the most neglected sector in our economy. All sorts of excuses are being peddled to justify the government's equivocation in addressing the issue of the small business sector. I would like to take this opportunity to beseech our leaders in this province to expedite empowerment projects for the previously disadvantaged communities to assimilate them into the mainstream economy. This province has the necessary resources and vast tracts of arable land which could be used for the benefit of the SMMES.

I am nevertheless pleased by reports that our Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism has ranked the promotion of Black businesses as its major priority for the coming year. Credit should also go to our Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, which during the past year, had unveiled concrete programmes for the development of the merging Black Farmers. These programmes and many more unveiled by other Provincial Departments, should be reinforced. For this we the people of this province should be grateful to the Premier Dr LPHM Mtshali and his team of Cabinet Ministers.

The scourge of crime continues to haunt us wherever we are: in our homes, in our cars, in schools, in churches, in the streets and in our work places. No one is safe anymore - not even members of the Royal Family. Criminals these days have become so ruthless in their evil deeds that they will not hesitate to murder someone in cold-blood just for a cellphone, and they commit these heinous crimes with impunity. The high incidence of crime is a serious indictment in our justice system, and the society cannot be faltered in calling for the introduction of a typical shariah legal system to deal with this situation.

We are tempted to rejoice over reports that the incidence of HIV infections in our province seems to be declining, but if latest statistics from Stats South Africa were anything to go by, the death of more than 90 000 people as a result of AIDS and other related diseases in this province last year, is still too many. This despite our collective efforts as leaders in conscientising our people about the dangers of AIDS. As titular Head of the Zulu Nation I have personally embarked on projects aimed at educating young people about HIV/AIDS. The Bayete HIV is a case in point. Yet this deadly pandemic continues to decimate our children. If this tide is not reversed, the impact of HIV/AIDS in our economy in years to come, will be devastating.

It is disheartening that whilst our resources in the field of health are overstretched as a result of the incidence of AIDS, our health department continues to lose large numbers of medical staff who emigrate in search of greener pastures. According to the South African medical journal, 3 300 nurses left South Africa in 1999 alone. It is very clear that this haemorrhage of health care in South Africa in general and in our province in particular, will have dire consequences on the delivery of health care in our country in years to come. I appeal to our health authorities to address this crisis as a matter of urgency.

The Honourable Mr Speaker Sir, ladies and gentlemen let me now address you an a very thorny issue - the issue of the powers and role of Traditional Leaders. There is a worrying trend in the manner in which traditional leaders are being treated by the government. The manner i which the draft white papers on the Traditional Leadership and Governance, as well as the Communal Land Rights Bill, have been formulated is disappointing. Traditional Leaders are neither consulted nor involved in the process of formulating policies that have a direct bearing on their day to day activities.

The institution of Ubukhosi has been in existence from time immemorial and has survived many hardships under past colonial regimes. From the point of view of the ordinary citizen, an Inkosi's most important role may lie in his symbolizing of community solidarity. So any notion that the institution of Ubukhosi, now that we have a democratic government in place, can just be wished away, remains a pipe-dream. Some countries just across our borders had decided to do away with the institution of traditional leadership immediately after attaining independence from colonial rulers. However, they have since realised that they had committed gross mistakes and were now re-inventing these institutions at great costs.

As King of the Zulu Nation I am proud of the role played by the Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation, Prince of KwaPhindangene, Dr MG Buthelezi who had singlehandedly championed the cause of the Institution of Traditional Leadership in this country. Dr Buthelezi had been steadfast in this crusade for the recognition and respect of the institution of Ubukhosi in this country. Today traditional leaders throughout South Africa are able to speak with one voice and are in a much stronger position than they were about two to three decades ago.

I would like to make this earnest appeal to the State President and the national government to stop temporizing and address this most important issue speedily and with great circumspection. The uncertainty about the role of traditional leaders vis-à-vis municipal structures in the rural areas is stalling much needed development, and tend to create unnecessary tension. This situation also has the potential to split the loyalty of the Amakhosi's subjects.

Mr Speaker, Sir, in opening this session of the KwaZulu-Natal Parliament I believe that despite the many challenges that we face, the outlook for the Province is very bright. We have in place an assembly of talented, experienced and dedicated members of parliament. Our Provincial Administration has been and continues to be transformed into a more efficient and financially disciplined operation.

As a nation we must now kneel down and supplicate His Almighty to best upon us His wisdom so that, as we traverse this route of leading our people to the World of Promise, Canaan, we do so knowing very well that He is on our side.

It is now my honour to declare this session of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature officially open.

I thank you.