Give chiefs more power

Tra­di­tional lead­ers are call­ing for the ANC to give them more say in the NCOP

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

Tra­di­tional lead­ers want to be at the cen­tre of law­mak­ing in Par­lia­ment, and the gov­ern­ing ANC seems to be en­ter­tain­ing their call. The party is plan­ning a spe­cial con­sul­ta­tive con­fer­ence with tra­di­tional lead­ers to re­solve out­stand­ing pol­icy is­sues, one of which is the chiefs’ propo­si­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the na­tional coun­cil of provinces (NCOP) as part-time del­e­gates.

This was re­vealed in the ANC’s dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment on leg­is­la­ture and gov­er­nance, which forms part of the papers the gov­ern­ing party pub­lished last Sun­day, ahead of its pol­icy con­fer­ence in June.

It states that among the out­stand­ing is­sues which have to be ad­dressed ur­gently are amend­ments to chap­ters 7 and 12 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Chap­ter 7 deals with lo­cal gov­ern­ment, while chap­ter 12 deals with tra­di­tional lead­er­ship.

In the doc­u­ment, the ANC states that one out­come of the con­fer­ence should be poli­cies that reg­u­larise tra­di­tional lead­er­ship is­sues and cus­toms.

“Based on the above, the ANC is bound by the Con­sti­tu­tion to ob­serve the prac­tices of tra­di­tional lead­er­ship and en­sure that the as­pi­ra­tions of both the ru­ral and tra­di­tional com­mu­ni­ties are met,” says the party.

It goes on to write in the doc­u­ment that the views of chiefs – as lead­ers in their own right in tra­di­tional com­mu­ni­ties – should be con­sid­ered se­ri­ously, and that a bal­ance should be found be­tween recog­nis­ing tra­di­tional prac­tices and their com­pli­ance with the ba­sic tenets of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, deputy chair­per­son of the Na­tional House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, con­firmed to City Press that the pro­posal for chiefs to par­tic­i­pate in the NCOP was one of the is­sues un­der dis­cus­sion with the gov­ern­ing party, adding that they were seek­ing its ur­gent res­o­lu­tion.

Mahlangu said this could be done through leg­is­la­tion, as was the case with the Mu­nic­i­pal Struc­tures Act, which makes pro­vi­sion for tra­di­tional coun­cils to be rep­re­sented in mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils. In that set­ting, tra­di­tional lead­ers do not vote.

Mahlangu said if the ANC failed to act on lead­ers’ pro­pos­als, they would call for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment which would be pre­scrip­tive. In that case, he said, “a num­ber of tra­di­tional lead­ers will par­tic­i­pate in the NCOP as ex-of­fi­cio mem­bers”. How do you feel about the ex­pan­sion of pow­ers for tra­di­tional lead­ers? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word CHIEFS and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and province. SM­Ses cost R1.50

“We feel that we have been mak­ing in­puts on a lot of leg­is­la­tion, and those in­puts have not been cov­ered prop­erly,” said Mahlangu.

“Nor­mally, when the leg­is­la­ture con­sults tra­di­tional lead­ers, they do so for the sake of com­pli­ance and not nec­es­sar­ily to find con­sen­sus.”

Mahlangu said chiefs felt their par­tic­i­pa­tion at the NCOP would also as­sist in re­solv­ing “a lot of con­sti­tu­tional court cases”, given that some bills – when con­sti­tu­tion­ally tested – failed to pass muster be­cause of in­suf­fi­cient con­sul­ta­tion with tra­di­tional lead­ers.

“If you look at the Mu­nic­i­pal Struc­tures Act, it says tra­di­tional coun­cils must par­tic­i­pate in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” he said.

“Now, you ask your­self: ‘If tra­di­tional lead­ers are al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils, what pre­vents the Na­tional House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers – which op­er­ates at a na­tional level – from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the up­per ech­e­lons of law­mak­ing in the coun­try?’”

Mahlangu said Par­lia­ment had, in many cases, given more con­sid­er­a­ton to in­puts from aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions than it had to in­puts from tra­di­tional lead­ers.

The chiefs will hold their own na­tional di­a­logue in May, be­fore the ANC’s pol­icy con­fer­ence in June, to es­tab­lish a niche for them­selves in terms of their roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. The out­comes of these talks will then be dis­cussed with the gov­ern­ing party.

But the pro­posed par­tic­i­pa­tion of tra­di­tional lead­ers in the NCOP is set to raise eye­brows.

The DA has re­jected the idea. Kevin Mile­ham, the party’s shadow min­is­ter on co­op­er­a­tive gov­er­nance and tra­di­tional af­fairs, said this was a con­sti­tu­tional is­sue as the struc­ture of the NCOP was de­fined in the Con­sti­tu­tion, and any change would re­quire a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment.

“Se­condly, this coun­try has a demo­cratic Par­lia­ment which rep­re­sents the will of the peo­ple, and tra­di­tional lead­ers – by def­i­ni­tion – are un­demo­crat­i­cally ap­pointed. They are hered­i­tary. It is [a sys­tem] based on pa­tron­age,” he said.

“The tra­di­tional lead­ers have rep­re­sen­ta­tion through the houses of tra­di­tional lead­ers in mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils, where they ob­serve but can­not vote.

“I do not see any jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for giv­ing them seats in the NCOP when the con­sid­er­a­tions af­fect­ing them go to the Na­tional House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers any­way.

“I do not think this [pro­posal] is go­ing to fly any time soon.

“The ANC is do­ing this to ap­peal to tra­di­tional lead­er­ship to shore up its de­clin­ing sup­port.”

Mile­ham added that, be­sides be­ing guardians of cul­ture and her­itage, and en­sur­ing that cus­tom­ary and tra­di­tional law were in­cor­po­rated into South Africa’s le­gal sys­tem, the role of tra­di­tional lead­ers should be cer­e­mo­nial.

Also con­tained in the ANC doc­u­ment is a pro­posal to re­view the ef­fi­cacy of the NCOP and as­sess whether it has func­tioned op­ti­mally in terms of dis­charg­ing its con­sti­tu­tional man­date.

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