Coastlands Hotel Umhlanga: 12 December 2011
The Hon. MEC for Cooperative Governance and
Traditional Affairs, Ms Nomsa Dube; Traditional Leaders and
Recognising the importance of a Summit of this
kind, I, like other Amakhosi, sought to prepare for today's
meeting. Unfortunately, the programme and agenda for this two
day Summit was still being decided by the Department late on
Thursday afternoon. It was therefore difficult to know how to
prepare, and we were left to guess at what the Department wishes
This is somehow not an unusual occurrence.
There have been summits, workshops and consultative processes
before between local government and traditional leaders, with
the purported aim of enhancing our partnership for the sake of
development and service delivery. But in the end, no summit is
going to change a relationship that is legislated to be a
The rules of our cooperation are set down in
the administrative framework, which creates limitations that we
cannot and may not go beyond. For as long as these aspects of
legislation remain unchanged, this problem will remain the
insurmountable obstacle that makes talking about deepening our
partnership somehow futile.
Let us therefore be clear about the problem.
Section 81 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act
stipulates the role of traditional leaders within municipal
councils. A limited number of pre-identified traditional leaders
are allowed to attend and participate in council meetings, but
do not carry the authority of councillors.
In terms of subsection 81(3): "Before a
municipal council takes a decision on any matter directly
affecting the area of a traditional authority, the council must
give the leader of that authority the opportunity to express a
view on that matter." That is not to say that the council is
obligated to act on this view or even take it into account in
the decision-making process.
In terms of subsection 81(4), "The MEC for
local government in a province, after consulting the provincial
House of Traditional Leaders, may by notice in the Provincial
Gazette (a) regulate the participation of traditional leaders in
the proceedings of a municipal council; and (b) prescribe a role
for traditional leaders in the affairs of a municipality."
Traditional leaders may thus participate in municipal council
meetings, but cannot vote and cannot expect their participation
to have any binding influence.
Moreover, the MEC will determine what their
actual role is and what form their participation will take.
To me, that does not sound like a partnership.
Traditional leaders have become ceremonial figures in local
governance, barred from taking any decisions or even having a
vote in the decision-making process. Thus we can gather in a
Summit like this to talk about closer cooperation, but in the
absence of a framework that allows real partnership, there is
little that can be achieved.
When the Acting Minister for Cooperative
Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Honourable Nathi
Mthethwa delivered the 2011/2012 budget to the NCOP in June this
year, a clear distinction was made between the two line
functions of the Department. Indeed, the Minister first spoke at
length about the Department of Cooperative Governance, before
speaking briefly about the Department of Traditional Affairs.
The Minister prefaced this section with the following words:
"The strategic role of the Department of Traditional Affairs is
to assist the institution of traditional leadership to transform
itself to be a strategic partner with Government in the
development of communities."
That makes it clear who is the dog and who is
the tail. But even the form of this assistance to our
institution "to transform itself" is unclear.
Traditional Affairs enjoys less than 0.2% of
the budget of the Department of Cooperative Governance and
Traditional Affairs. In terms of the 2011/2012 budget, our
Government spends more money providing "strategic advice" for
the media development of provincial and local government than we
do building capacity and developing policy around traditional
Moreover, Traditional Leaders, who are subject
to the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, have
no autonomy or any budget to perform their functions. We cannot
even hold a meeting without the Department of Local Government
and Traditional Affairs approving the budget to hold the
meeting. Traditional councils are left with no administrative
Under Apartheid, traditional councils operated
on the basis of levies. But under this democratic Government,
such levies have been abolished. In their place, no provision is
made to fund traditional councils. Indeed, there is no budget
allocated to traditional councils; there is no budget allocated
to the National House of Traditional Leaders; nor to the
Provincial Houses, nor the Houses at local level. This issue of
our Houses having no budget has severely curtailed the
effectiveness of traditional leadership.
I have spoken in the national House of
Parliament about the absence of a budget for our Local House,
which forces me to ask my wife to provide refreshments whenever
we meet. The Honourable Minister of Cooperative Governance and
Traditional Affairs, the Honourable Mr Sicelo Shiceka was
shocked to hear this. Yet still the status quo has not changed.
If we cannot even employ a secretary or get a phone line, how
can we implement even the most visionary development
This has placed traditional leaders and
leadership completely outside of the sphere of governance
altogether. We are, frankly, a council with no official
function, no structures and no administrative capacity: an empty
shell of an institution. If traditional leaders are to cooperate
with local government to promote development, then we must have
the means to do so.
Another problem we are faced with is that of
overlapping responsibilities and a lack of clear delineation of
roles. Amakhosi have raised this issue on numerous occasions,
pointing out that the functions and powers of traditional
leaders need to be spelled out just as those of municipalities
are spelled out. It must be clear just what we are to do within
the local municipality. Without that, there will be continuous
clashes between municipalities and Amakhosi.
This problem began with the dishonouring of
the Agreement for Reconciliation and Peace signed just before
the 1994 election, which expressly stipulated that the
institution of traditional leadership, the status and role of
the Zulu King and the constitutional position of KwaZulu would
be protected in the provincial constitution of KwaZulu Natal.
While the interim Constitution of South Africa placed indigenous
and customary law on the same level as provincial law, the final
Constitution left the matter in limbo, allowing legislation to
give municipalities all the powers and functions of traditional
The matter came to a head in 2000, when the
new wall-to-wall system of local government was inaugurated. Due
to the lack of clarification, a clash was pending between the
roles of councillors and traditional leaders. Therefore, on the
30th of November 2000, on the eve of the Local Government
Elections, a delegation of the Coalition of Traditional Leaders
led by the Honourable Inkosi Patekile Holomisa had a day-long
negotiating meeting with an ad hoc Cabinet Committee led by the
then Deputy President, Mr Jacob Zuma, and comprising all the
relevant line function Ministers, including the Minister for
Local Government and Traditional Affairs.
A formal agreement was entered into in terms
of which traditional leaders undertook not to boycott the Local
Government Elections in consideration of the formal promise
received that Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution would be
amended to ensure that the powers and functions of Traditional
Leaders would not be obliterated by the implementation of the
Municipal Structures Act and other municipal legislation.
Nine years later, on the 26th of August 2009,
a Member of Parliament, Mr Peter Smith, asked President Zuma in
the National Assembly when Chapters 7 and 12 of the Constitution
would be amended as promised on the 30th of November 2000.
President Zuma's response was that the undertaking that was made
to amend the Constitution was merely a recommendation and not a
solemn agreement. And he added that the Cabinet did not accept
I immediately pointed out that I too was in
Cabinet at that time, as the Minister of Home Affairs, and while
I incessantly raised the need to discuss and implement this
promise, I could not remember it having been discussed in
Cabinet at all. I then stated in Parliament my distress over
seeing my country governed through deception. Traditional
leaders delivered on their promise and supported the elections,
and the person who signed on the dotted line to execute
Government's promise is now our country's President.
President Thabo Mbeki also pledged that if the
powers and functions of traditional leaders were obliterated by
the Municipal Structures Act and other legislation, he would
amend the Constitution. He made this pledge in a letter to
Inkosi Mzimela, the then Chairperson of the National House of
Traditional Leaders. But it was never fulfilled. The legislation
2005 failed to address the obliteration of the
powers and functions of traditional leaders and the present
legislative framework is proving to be an unmitigated disaster
for our institution.
For decades now, traditional leaders have
witnessed the institution of Ubukhosi being sidelined while the
powers, functions and role of traditional leaders are
increasingly diminished. The Coalition of Traditional Leaders
fought hard to ensure the survival of the powers and functions
of traditional leadership through the various waves of local
Unfortunately the debates, vision and
cohesiveness of that Coalition did not carry over in any
significant way into parliamentary activities.
As with any institution, when one begins to
tamper with the form, the substance is changed. As traditional
leaders, we had a community governance structure that worked,
was fair and produced good results for our people.
But Government sought to chop and change it
into something different and is now grappling with the problems,
contradictions and difficulties it has created. In the end, it
is our people who suffer.
Traditional leaders have participated in a
number of consultative processes relating to their position in
local government structures. But our input was only sought after
the draft legislation had been formulated and policies were
already established. In the end, the massive input provided by
traditional leaders did not produce any tangible change to what
had already been decided, in spite of numerous promises having
been made at the highest level of government that the
aspirations of traditional leaders would be accommodated.
In the entire long process of local government
policy formulation, traditional leaders have been consulted in a
purely perfunctory manner, more for the purpose of letting us
know what was going to be done with our institution than to seek
our input. Rather than recognising and protecting traditional
communities as a specific model of societal organisation,
Government has sought to slot the various components of
traditional leadership into the existing legal system developed
by Western values and principles.
Accordingly, traditional leaders were slotted
into the mould of municipal government; land was slotted into
the system of centralised government administration; and
traditional jurisdiction was slotted into the overall judicial
system, leaving indigenous law in limbo.
The newly appointed Chief Justice has remarked about this
There are many and diverse problems faced by
our communities. Many families who used to live off the land are
now dependent on social grants. Poverty is more visible, more
pressing and more of a threat than ever before, and the problem
of food security is increasing. Traditional leaders can promote
sustainable rural development to address these problems. But we
must be empowered by legislation and funding to do what we are
capable of doing.
On 19 July 2011, the Acting Minister for
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Honourable
Nathi Mthethwa spoke at the Jewish Centre in Durban and made the
following statement: "Strong relations between elected
representatives and traditional leadership are the cornerstone
of service delivery." Those are visionary words. But unless the
partnership between local government and traditional leadership
is changed in real terms through amending legislation, no number
of summits or talk shops will be able to create those
I take no pleasure in coming here today with a
message that seems so divisive. But I feel we must be honest
with one another if we are to create a genuine partnership. In
the end, preventing traditional leaders from fulfilling their
role is detrimental to local governance, and to the future of