No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Light rain. More sun than clouds. Cool.
King Goodwill Zwelithini (Siyabonga Masonkutu, The Witness)
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Motlanthe's tirade against traditional leadership authorities is bound to
further escalate an already tense relationship between the former president and
referred to traditional leadership authorities as "village tin pot
dictators" who are holding communities and government to ransom. His target
has been the Ingonyama Trust controlled by the Zulu monarch, King Goodwill
simply sees the trust as an extortion machine with communities forced to pay
money into the trust without being consulted about how the money is being used,
research I ever conducted – funded by the Centre for Civil Society at the
University of KwaZulu-Natal – was on traditional leadership structures and how
they relate to a democratic dispensation in South Africa. I published on the
subject as far back as 2002 and have also dealt with it in my forthcoming book,
addition to researching the subject, I grew up under a traditional leadership
authority and continue to observe it to date. I have news for Motlanthe. He is
right in his view that traditional leadership authorities are at times
arbitrary in the manner they govern villages. However, the problem exists due
to the failure of the ANC-dominated local government structures.
leadership authorities have regained legitimacy as champions of development and
governance amidst an increasingly corrupt local government system in rural
areas. If you think local government is corrupt in urban areas, imagine what the
situation is in rural areas where communities are largely dormant!
this scenario, traditional leadership structures filled an institutional vacuum
left behind by an ailing democratic local government structure. Dictatorship
and extortion ensued by some traditional leadership councils with villagers
being left to choose between the ANC dominated corrupt local government on one
hand, and the authoritative and yet disciplined traditional leadership
authorities on the other hand.
that a democratic local government structure has lost legitimacy due to
ineffective and corrupt councillors, villagers had to defer to the devil they
know: traditional authorities.
twist in all of this is that a democratic government is actually not being held
to ransom by traditional leadership authorities: government went into
partnership with traditional authorities because the latter still retains
legitimacy in the eyes of the villagers while government lost its legitimacy
due to corruption and other challenges confronted in post-apartheid South
is where the story becomes even more interesting. In some areas in Limpopo, for
example, a political party utilises traditional leadership authority as an
access point to village constituents who have lost hope when it comes to
effective and functioning local government structures. This is the very same
political party that has rampaged and undermined the legitimacy of the local
regain access to the people and at times attain votes, the party has actually
empowered traditional authorities at the expense of the villagers. There is
therefore a symbiotic relationship between political power brokers who have
rampaged the democratic local government system and traditional authorities,
who at times unleash their dictatorial tendencies on communities as communities
turn away from local government barons.
the end of the day, villagers have become a (voting) commodity traded between
traditional authorities and political power barons.
the current dispensation, government has no motivation whatsoever to reform
legislation with the aim to empower villagers because that would ultimately
disempower traditional authorities. If traditional authorities are disempowered
and villagers are empowered – like if they can hold title deeds to their
properties, for example – then the villagers will be able to demand fair
treatment from government. When government comes under pressure from the
villagers, it will no longer be able to turn to traditional authorities to
mediate an ailing relationship that the villagers have with a democratic
lead me to the uncomfortable conclusion that some traditional authorities
continue to do the same job they carried out under apartheid, namely to pacify
village communities in the interest of propping up government that is
struggling with its legitimacy. I say "some" because not all
traditional leadership authorities are in on this.
Motlanthe's hypothesis should be reformulated to say: village communities are
held ransom by some tin-pot traditional authorities and a corrupt government
that is struggling with its legitimacy.
is not government that is held to ransom, it is rather some of the village
communities under traditional leadership authorities.
- Ralph Mathekga is a Fellow at the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg and author of When Zuma Goes.
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