A woman marks a ballot paper with a fingerprint in Karachi during national and provincial elections in Pakistan last week

Deputy President Paul Mashatile urged traditional leaders to promote free and fair elections in the wake of the upcoming seventh general elections.

Speaking as the Chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on matters of Traditional and Khoi-San leaders during a dialogue convened by the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mashatile asked traditional leaders to encourage eligible voters to participate in the elections.

"We will, as a nation, hold the seventh democratic National and Provincial Elections. In this context, traditional leaders should continue to encourage all eligible voters to participate in the elections," he said, SA News reported.

He added, "We urge traditional leaders to promote free and fair elections and ensure that all voters exercise their democratic right — a right that was hard fought for and must never be taken for granted."

The deputy president addressed the killings of traditional leaders, especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal and asked rural leaders to work with the government to solve the problem.

"We encourage amakhosi and izinduna to continue working closely with the government to address this challenge effectively," he said.

He went on to strongly criticize acts of violence and encouraged the community to help the government by reporting anyone involved in or planning such crimes to the authorities. He assured traditional leaders that the law enforcement agencies are also working hard to hold those responsible to account.

The deputy president recognized the pressing need for the government to speed up its efforts in developing rural areas, especially by putting into action the InvestRural Master Plan. This initiative helps rural communities unlock their potential and enhance their way of life.

"Investing in local economies and land ownership is still critical for rural communities' development," he said. "Government has also undertaken to divest itself of the communal land it holds in trust for communities."

Aside from this, Mashatile also offered the traditional leaders to work together to address issues like substance abuse, crime and gender-based violence.

He noted that GBVF (Gender-Based Violence and Femicide) harms socio-economic conditions, especially on women and girls. Hence, it is vital to solve this issue for the nation's development.

"You must never allow anyone to act violently and abusively against their partners in the name of culture. Together, we must stand firm and say no to all forms of abuse and violence," he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last year urged South African men and boys to break the cycle of violence as the country witnessed an increase in crimes against women.