The incompatibility of traditional leadership and democratic experimentation in South Africa

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    After a plethora of legislative and policy frameworks have been passed to integrate traditional leadership system into the modern liberal democratic system in South Africa, incompatibilities of the two became increasingly evident, especially in respect of governance. The most protracted challenges of the incompatible governance systems are located in the local government sphere, especially in provinces that are predominantly rural with tribal settlements. Traditional leadership system has been in existence in African communities before imperial and colonial rule, and it had served good purposes for the wellbeing of citizens. Whilst it continued during imperialism and colonialism, it gradually took a form that principally benefited the alien Western ideology. With the attainment of democracy in South Africa, the traditional leadership system was further undermined through successive democratic regimes, albeit there was no overt state intention to demoralise, frustrate and discriminate against traditional leadership. But their exclusion from the mainstream of governance as well as encroachment into their selections and inauguration was palatable. Currently, the role and function of traditional leaders appear to be blurred in the day-to-day activities of municipalities, resulting in undue contestations of powers, jurisdiction and responsibility in local government. This article attempts to examine the reasons underlying incompatibility between the modern democratic system and the traditional leadership, amidst nationally-acclaimed legislative and policy framework provisions for their synergy. The article argues that harmonisation of the two would serve to enhance prospects of achieving good governance for service delivery tribal ruralities in South Africa.