Volume 5, Number 2


Traditional leadership in local governance in South Africa: A case study of eThekwini Municipality
P.S. Reddy and S. Shembe

The paper analyses the role of traditional leaders in service delivery in eThekwini City Council, which is one of eight metropolitan municipalities in South Africa. There are currently 17 traditional leaders within the Municipality. It makes an in-depth analysis of traditional leadership in the local governance process, both in the pre- and post-democratic local government dispensation. The study focused on three wards in the Municipality which are almost ninety per cent rural, namely 01, 02 and 03 and reviewed the municipal budgets for three years which covered the 2006/2007, 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 financial years. Budgets allocated to the wards were also analysed. The study makes an in-depth analysis of the projects budgeted for and implemented in the three financial years and the role played by traditional leaders in the process. In addition, the participation of traditional leaders in the Integrated Development Plans (IDP) and annual reviews for the three years was also critically reviewed. The most important findings of the paper are the fact that traditional leaders are not playing any significant role in service delivery within the Municipality. They are not members of the Council, which is the main decision-making body of the Municipality, despite explicit provision being made for their representation in the Local Government Municipal Structures Act, 1998 (Act No.117 of 1998). They do not contribute to the IDP, budget formulation or planning of projects. The traditional leaders are only consulted when the projects are implemented in their respective areas. The traditional leaders’ role was purely ceremonial and restricted to sod turning and public mobilisation within the Municipality. It is hoped that the findings of this research will provide an impetus for the Municipality to critically review the participation of traditional leadership in local governance with an emphasis on the implementation of the Local Government Municipal Structures Act, 1998 (Act No. 117 of 1998) and, more specifically, the basic provisions in this regard. Increased involvement of the traditional leaders in key municipal activities, notably integrated development planning, budgetary processes, planning and implementation of development projects and the annual review processes is encouraged. It is further recommended that the Office of the Amakhosi should report directly to the Deputy City Manager: Governance of the Municipality to ensure speedy consideration of recommendations made. The City Council recently decided that traditional leaders will henceforth participate fully in municipal affairs. In this context, they will serve on the various portfolio committees, and participate in the development initiatives and integrated development planning of the Municipality

Keywords: Participation; service delivery; integrated development planning; local governance