Structures and struggles of rural local government in South Africa : the case of traditional authorities in the Eastern Cape

Ntsebeza, Lungisile (2002) Structures and struggles of rural local government in South Africa : the case of traditional authorities in the Eastern Cape. PhD thesis, Rhodes University.




This thesis is about the political implications of the constitutional recognition of the hereditary institution of traditional leadership in post-1994 South Africa for the democratization process in the rural areas of the former Bantustans. The thesis is organized around three related conceptual, historical and political questions. The conceptual question deals with the meaning of democracy in rural areas under the jurisdiction of traditional authorities. The historical question traces how the institution and traditional authorities have survived to the present post-colonial period. Lastly, this study investigates the political issue of why an ANC-led government came to recognize the institution. The focus of the thesis is the sphere of rural local government in the Xhalanga district, where these issues are best illustrated. The thesis argues that the institution of traditional leadership and its officials survived precisely because they were incorporated into the colonial and apartheid administrative structures in the project of indirect rule. Traditional authorities were central to the apartheid policy of retribalisation, which was essentially a form of control of Africans in the Bantustans. Rural residents engaged in fierce struggles against the imposition of rural local government structures such as the District Council and Tribal Authorities. In so far as traditional authorities were part of government structures, they could not avoid being targets in these struggles. In explaining the recognition of the institution of traditional leadership, the thesis focuses on the policies of the ANC, the majority party in the Government of National Unity, towards traditional authorities. Organisationally weak on the rural grounds, the ANC operated through what they considered to be “good/progressive/comrade chiefs”. The ANC had hoped that these traditional authorities would accept a non-political ceremonial role. However, traditional authorities have rejected this ceremonial role. Their refusal, coupled with the ANC’s ambivalence in resolving the tension imply, the study concludes, that the (political) citizenship rights of rural people are partial: they are neither citizens nor subjects.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Local government, South Africa, Eastern Cape, Tribal government, Political leadership
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Sociology and Industrial Sociology
ID Code:2299
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:01 Dec 2011 09:51
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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