The Department of Traditional Affairs is mandated to oversee a range of tasks inherent in dealing with issues related to traditional affairs, including KhoiSan leadership, and supporting the development of stable and cohesive interfaith communities.
The 2003 White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance sets out a national framework, and norms and standards that define the role and place of the institution of traditional leadership within the South African system of democratic governance. It seeks to support and transform the institution in accordance with constitutional imperatives and to restore the integrity and legitimacy of traditional leadership in line with the African indigenous law and customs subject to the Constitution.
The NDP envisages creating an inclusive rural economy and transforming society through a unified country. This is given expression by outcome 14 (nation building and social cohesion) of government’s 2014 – 2019 medium-term strategic framework, with which the work of the Department of Traditional Affairs is closely aligned. Over the medium term, the department intends to continue focusing on developing legislation to ensure that traditional leadership institutions are strengthened.
Major activities over the medium term include increasing the number of functional structures of traditional leadership through the implementation of the Traditional and KhoiSan Leadership Bill, once enacted; supporting the establishment of the national KhoiSan council; establishing systems for reducing traditional leadership disputes and claims; and developing and implementing a capacity-building plan for the institution of traditional leadership.
South Africa also has provincial houses of traditional leaders in the following: 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 11 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 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.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2018/19