Volume: Volume 20 - 2016
Article type: Refereed article
Author/s: Mathenjwa, Mbuzeni; Makama, Porsche
The role of traditional leaders in governance dates back to long before the colonial conquest of South Africa, when the chief as head of indigenous African government employed traditional councillors as a means of reaching people through the traditional councils. After the onset of colonial conquest, African leaders were subordinate to the settler governments and the settler governments were the primary source of their powers. In the new democratic constitutional dispensation the institution of traditional leadership is recognised in the South African Constitution. However, the Constitution makes provision for national legislation to provide for a role for traditional leadership at the local level on matters affecting local communities. The Local Government: Municipal Structures Act of 1998 makes provision for the participation of traditional leaders in municipal councils without the right to vote. However, the participation and role of traditional leaders in municipal councils are subject to the discretion of the MEC for Local Government who identifies and prescribes a role for traditional leaders who should participate in municipal councils. In the fashion of the colonial era of old, when the settler government was the source of the powers of traditional leaders, the role of traditional leaders in local government is decided by the MEC in the new constitutional dispensation. This article explores the structural and legislative possibilities of decolonising municipal councils by allowing full participation of traditional leaders in municipal councils.