Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Gcina Ndwalane
Johannesburg – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged traditional leaders to take a leading role in reviving sites in rural areas that have the potential to help bolster the country’s stagnant economy.

He said sectors such as agriculture provide the perfect opportunity to be an “oasis of an inclusive and diversified economy” which could help create much-needed jobs.

Ramaphosa was speaking at the last day of the Traditional Leaders Indaba in Joburg on Friday.

With the unemployment rate having hit record highs last seen in 2003 – at 27.7% – Ramaphosa said the challenge to get many into jobs belonged to everyone to come up with innovative solutions.

“This is a task that also rests on your (traditional leaders) shoulders, because for generations you were the people who went to each household to find out if people were working.

“You are deeply connected with our people,” Ramaphosa said. The National Development Plan states that about 1 million jobs could be created from the agricultural sector.

He touted various government policies and investments that aimed at boosting struggling small farmers.

Among them is a skills development programme targeted at black youth and the training offered to small farm holders that were provided with training and resources which would allow them to access markets.

He said countries such as Ethiopia provided the country with a key example on how a struggling agricultural sector was propelled into the biggest contributor to that country’s GDP.

“The government is more focused on growing the economic value of smallholder agriculture which will bring more communities out of poverty. Some of the initiatives spearheaded by the government require changing old practices and adopting new methods of looking after livestock and participating in programmes that build capacity and skills to improve smallholdings,” he said.

He also encouraged traditional leaders to preserve traditional rituals, but also to bridge the gap between modern advances and old customs.

This was crucial when dealing with health issues such as HIV/Aids and TB where leaders could lead the charge against stigmas caused by these epidemics.

Saturday Star