Traditional leaders are still relevant

2015-04-05 15:00

I am responding to the poorly researched column on traditional leaders, “The chiefs are losing SA’s vote” by Mondli Makhanya (City Press, March 29 2015).

Makhanya is desperate to discredit traditional leaders by painting a picture of them as irresponsible and drunk people who do not understand their responsibilities.

He does this by singling out the behaviour of a traditional leader he visited in the Eastern Cape.

Makhanya and his ilk need drastic transformation to move out of the mental slavery that has taught them to disrespect recognised leaders of society (traditional leaders).

To start with, Makhanya is expected to know that, at the dawn of democracy, there was, inevitably, confusion across all sectors because it was during the birth of a new nation with new systems of governance.

The battle for space between traditional leadership and elected representatives was also to be expected and is not an isolated incident. This cannot be used to define traditional leaders as irrelevant.

Secondly, the system of traditional leadership must be understood in its totality. Traditional leaders lead traditional councils. They, in turn, lead communities on issues of social cohesion, matters relating to land, justice (traditional courts), arbitration and family issues, all of which are fundamental for stability in communities.

If all those issues were to be attended to by magistrates in the courts and by police and social workers, the state would spend billions to employ more of them to deal with such social issues.

The stability we see in villages, compared with urban areas, is not just natural or automatic. It arises from the very deliberate and diligent efforts of traditional institutions.

It is far better for government to pay traditional leaders salaries that are commensurate with their efforts than for media houses to pay for poor pieces by lazy columnists.

Thovhele Nthumeni (Mmbangiseni) Masia

Senior traditional leader: Masia area

Vhembe District, Limpopo

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