Special Editions, Student Edition 1


The role of traditional leadership in local governance in SADC countries: achievements and challenges
Chikulo, B.C.

Local governance reforms have been transforming the structure of local governance in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. Since the 1990s, the critical objective of the reforms has been to democratise and institutionalise local governance. The objective of the reforms has been to improve institutional effectiveness, accountability and service delivery at the local level, especially in the rural areas. To this end, much has been achieved in terms of institutional legal and policy frameworks. However, the common problem that has been confronting all these reform initiatives is the question of the role and status of traditional authority leadership in the democratised local governance system. In this context, the reality in all SADC countries is that, subject to their relationship with the central government, traditional authorities and their leadership do have some role and status within the new democratic local governance. To this end, they exercise some local government functions, ranging from provision of services to allocation of tribal land which is generally held in trust, and, in some instances, preservation of law and order. The recurrent question, however, has been one of how to create an appropriate institutional mechanism for their involvement in order to enable them to effectively assist in the development process at the local level. The article examines the extent to which the traditional authorities and their leadership have been accommodated in the formal local governance system and what their role and status is in the municipal delivery system and development initiatives.

Keywords: Traditional leaders; traditional authorities; democratic local governance; rural areas.