Traditional Leadership

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Traditional Leadership

Consideration of the subject of traditional leadership is prone to erroneous perceptions. In order to clarify the IFP’s position, it is necessary to approach the issue of traditional leadership comprehensively rather than through issues such as governance, land tenure and law, and to shift the emphasis from traditional leaders and more towards traditional communities, which in themselves should be regarded as a specific model of societal organisation based on:

  • Indigenous and customary law;
  • Communalism rather than individuals;
  • Consensus driven democracy rather than political representation;
  • Traditional leadership structures;
  • Self governance, including endogenous jurisdiction (community courts); and
  • The individual human right to access land and rely on a system of social solidarity.


The IFP would like to shift attitudes and perceptions away from the notions that tribalism is inherently regressive and antithetic to development and progress, and that progress, development and welfare cannot be shaped on communalist patterns.

Government Role in Traditional Communities

Traditional communities are not static. They are constantly evolving, and features that are deemed to be undesirable can be changed, without undermining the entire notion and structure of the community. However, the IFP contends that the government has no role or justification for trying to change the way in which people choose to live, or their customs and traditions.

Indigenous and Customary Law

South Africa needs to recognise and accept the existence of indigenous and customary law alongside the Roman-Dutch law, which is recognised in the courts.

Self-Governing Communities

Traditional communities should be recognised as a form of self-governance at community level, which consequently entitles participation in other levels of government. In local government there should be ex-officio positions for traditional leaders in the category ‘C’ Municipal Councils. In the provincial government, the House of Traditional Leaders should advise on all Bills placed before the legislature, and exercise executive functions with respect to traditional communities. At a national government level, the IFP favours a Council of Traditional Leaders, which would relate to the Houses in much the same way as the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) does with respect to the provincial legislatures. The Council of Traditional Leaders should advise on all Bills passed before Parliament, and should work closely with the NCOP.

By accommodating the role of traditional communities within the system of governance, there are certain advantages to be gained. For instance, the delivery of housing could be sped up by delegating traditional authorities to address needs in their own communal property structures.

The accountability of traditional leaders to their communities can be preserved by limiting central government remuneration.