Acta Universitatis Danubius. Administratio, Vol 7, No 2 (2015)

Traditional Leadership and Democratic Governance: Using Leadership Theories to Calibrate Administrative Compatibility

Mashele Rapatsa


This article discusses South Africa’s phenomenon of traditional leadership which is widely vested in kings, chiefs and headmen in a traditional context. It unpacks the notion of traditional leadership considerate of transformative leadership theory applicable to the post-1994 rights-based administration, given notable changes in governance systems under democratic dispensation and its reputable human rights narratives. The erstwhile regime of apartheid configured traditional authorities and their administration in a despotic manner, to an extent that kings, chiefs and their traditional headmen were elevated in status and regarded as unequal to all other humans in society. This served apartheid excellently as it enabled kings and chiefs to disregard human rights and other people’s entitlements thereby rendering people powerless and docile to abuses and exploitations. Thus, apartheid entrenched that ‘culture of authority’ which could not be challenged. Women and children suffered the most under these instances. In contrast, the post-1994 administration embedded a new system of governance characterized by a ‘culture of justification’. The system obligates that all administrative actions including those of traditional authorities, must be justified in accordance with the law as per the supremacy of the Constitution. This entails that kings and chiefs are not above the law and must similarly conform to written rules, uphold the Constitution, respect and protect people’s fundamental rights. It is asserted that a contestation of power between traditional authority and central democratic governance remain widespread. Thus, it is indispensable to calibrate administrative compatibility of these regimes to essentially safeguard the democratic regime and its crucial human rights norms from collapsing. This is essential to effectuate appropriate democratic public administration. 


Full Text: 27-36



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