Newstraditional leaders

Listen | Mbongiseni Buthelezi on Traditional Leadership and Democracy

The evolution of traditional leadership and its impact post-democracy

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED HERE

 

We have seen a number of stories around developments in various royal households in South Africa.

Recently, a court ruling in the Mthatha High Court restored the AmaMpondomise kingship when Judge Richard Brooks set aside former president Jacob Zuma’s decision not to recognise their kingship.

A battle surrounding the rightful heir’s ascension to the throne has yet to be resolved.

Public Affairs Research Institute executive director Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi joined Azania to discuss the rich history, as well as the contestation of traditional leadership post-democracy.

Terms like chieftaincy have a colonial resonance to them and are offensive to some people. The best we can do is to call them traditional authorities or traditional leaders, but even that itself carries its own inaccuracies because it carries with it a whole set of connotations.

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Executive director – Public Affairs Research Institute

Buthelezi says there are three levels of leadership – queenships, kingships and below, those you have what is called headman and headwoman.

Speaking on the contestation of some kingships over the years, Buthelezi explains that its history goes as far back as the advent of colonialism.

In many places, people lived under political leaders and that was the norm in southern Africa prior to the advent of colonialism but it was also not a stable situation. The way in which people ascended a throne would be through succession but that succession was not always uncontested.

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Executive director – Public Affairs Research Institute

A lot of these communities had ways of managing those contestations though sometimes they would turn violent. In other times they were managed internally by what is now called traditional councils.

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Executive director – Public Affairs Research Institute

Looking at post-democracy and the ways in which the institution of traditional leadership has evolved, Buthelezi says the state has not adequately addressed the contestation of some leaders who are believed to have imposed their throneship on communities.

There are communities through forced removals that were put under the authority of traditional leaders that they do not recognise, people who had a hand in them losing their land. That is the mess we are sitting with today. The state in many ways has not addressed it adequately.

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi, Executive director – Public Affairs Research Institute