Traditional leadership in local economic development : a case study of the uMgungundlovu District.
Nxumalo, Felix Thembinkosi.
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Inequality in South Africa in terms of access to education, finance, food security, and public amenities is worse in rural areas under traditional leadership than in urban areas not under the control of traditional leaders. In most of these areas, people live in abject poverty and underdevelopment is rife with no access to economic opportunities, basic services and economic and social infrastructure. This study attempts to ascertain the involvement of traditional leadership in the Local Economic Development (LED) of these areas. It also explores the mandate given to traditional leadership through government legislation, policies and programmes in LED. The study further seeks to suggest through a model how traditional leadership could be involved in LED. This study focuses on the following questions: What are the fundamental causes of the exclusion of traditional leadership in LED? What government policies and programmes are in places that explicitly spell out the role of traditional leadership in LED? and What are the perceptions of traditional leadership implicit in the government’s LED initiatives? The scope of the study covers the uMgungundlovu District which has 24 traditional councils that form the local House of Traditional Leaders. These traditional councils spread across the seven local municipalities that form part of the District. The data was collected using a qualitative research methodology which focused on interviews with government officials and traditional leaders, to get their perceptions on the role of traditional leadership in LED. Government legislation, policies and programmes have also been reviewed to check the official government position on the role of traditional leadership in LED. Engagement with government officials, traditional leaders and government publications reveals that traditional leadership is not playing a role in LED. There are no LED programmes directed to traditional communities that are led by traditional leaders. There is then a justifiable perception that traditional leaders are being deliberately excluded from government LED initiatives. A review of the government legislation, policies and programmes indicates that they do not bar the traditional leaders from playing a role in LED. The constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides a broad framework with regard to the role of traditional leaders by stating that the national government may provide for a role of traditional leadership in matters affecting their communities. The White Paper on Traditional Leadership and Governance recognizes traditional leadership as an institution located in rural areas that has a role to play in the fight against poverty. The Traditional Leadership Governance and Framework Act states that government may provide a role for traditional leaders in respect of economic development. This study provides a model through which traditional leadership could be involved in LED. The model provides for a role to be played by the provincial House of Traditional Leaders, as part of LED policy formulation; a role for the local House of Traditional Leaders as part of LED strategy development; and for a Traditional Council, as part of LED implementation monitoring. Traditional ward’s headmen are envisaged as assisting in coordination and a ward committee, in which traditional leadership is represented, is envisaged as contributing towards evaluation. The study finally recommends that the Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism in collaboration with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs should establish a fund for a LED programme for traditional communities. The study further recommends that the conceptualization of LED programmes should be done in consultation with traditional leadership, and that traditional leadership should lead the implementation of the programme in their respective areas.