In September 2013, Cabinet approved the publication of a Bill that would pave the way for the Khoisan people to be recognised. The Bill makes statutory provisions for the recognition of the Khoisan and also addresses limitations of existing legislation relating to traditional leadership and governance. The Bill will contribute to the NDP’s key target relating to broadening social cohesion and unity while addressing the inequalities of the past.
South Africa also has provincial houses of traditional leaders in the following six provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.
National and provincial houses of traditional leaders enhance the cooperative relationships within national and provincial government.
Local houses of traditional leaders deepen and cement the relationship between municipalities and traditional leaders on customary law and development initiatives.
Chapter 12 of the Constitution states that the institution, status and roles of traditional leadership, according to customary law, are recognised.
Government acknowledges the critical role of traditional leadership institutions in South Africa’s constitutional democracy and in communities, particularly in relation to the rural-development strategy.
It therefore remains committed to strengthening the institution of traditional leadership.
To this end, numerous pieces of legislation have been passed and various programmes implemented to ensure that traditional leadership makes an important contribution to the development of society.
The department is also working on a range of issues, which include policies on unity and diversity, initiation, traditional healing, traditional leaders’ protocol, family trees, the remuneration and benefits of traditional leaders based on uniform norms and standards, and involving the Khoisan people in the system of governance in South Africa.
Parliament extended the term of the Commission of Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims, which ended in 2015, from 2016 to 2020 – to allow the commission time to finalise outstanding disputes and claims, and deal with the 320 traditional leadership disputes and claims per year that were envisaged.
Legislation has transformed the composition of traditional councils to provide for elements of democracy. It states that 40% of members must be elected and that one third of members must be women.
Legislation has also opened up an opportunity for municipalities and traditional councils to achieve cooperative governance.
Traditional councils have been given a strong voice in development matters and may now enter into partnerships and service-delivery agreements with Government in all spheres.
The National Khoisan Council aims to unite the Khoisan communities and create a platform through which they can raise issues affecting them as a group of communities. The most important issue is the statutory recognition and inclusion of the Khoisan people in formal government structures.
Houses of traditional leaders
The Constitution mandates the establishment of houses of traditional leaders by means of either provincial or national legislation.
The National House of Traditional Leaders was established in terms of the then National House of Traditional Leaders Act, 1997 (Act 10 of 1997).
Its objectives and functions are to promote the role of traditional leadership within a democratic constitutional dispensation, enhance unity and understanding among traditional communities and advise national government.
Provincial houses of traditional leaders were established in all six provinces that have traditional leaders, namely the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West.
The national and provincial houses of traditional leaders enhance the cooperative relationships within national and provincial government, while the establishment of local houses of traditional leaders deepens and cements the relationship between municipalities and traditional leaders on customary law and development initiatives.
Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims
The commission was established in terms of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003.
It is tasked with restoring the dignity of traditional leaders and their communities by investigating and ensuring that the institution of traditional leadership is restored to where it belongs. It also investigates all claims to any position of traditional leadership (king/queen/principal/senior traditional leader, as well as headmen and headwomen), including disputes over the boundaries of traditional councils.
Section 25 of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003 requires that the commission investigate and make recommendations on cases where there is doubt as to whether a kingship, principal traditional leadership or senior traditional leadership and headmanship was established in accordance with customary law and customs.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2017/18