Friday, July 30, 2010

President Jacob Zuma to Abolish Six South African "Monarchies"

Jacob Zuma to abolish six South African monarchies

South Africa moves to bury apartheid era legacy, saying kings were appointed as part of divide-and-rule strategy

David Smith in Johannesburg,
Friday 30 July 2010 15.45 BST

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini will not be affected by Jacob Zuma's ruling.

Nearly half of South Africa's traditional monarchies are to be abolished in a government move to bury another legacy of the apartheid era.

Some of the kings were originally appointed by the white minority government with few legitimate claims to their thrones, a report found. They were part of a divide and rule strategy to undermine opposition to the apartheid regime, said Jacob Zuma, the South African president.

Zuma announced that six out of 13 monarchies would be derecognised to correct "the wrongs of the past" and defuse tensions among rival leaders. He stressed that no one would be accused of being an apartheid collaborator.

South Africa is a constitutional democracy and its traditional monarchs are symbolic figureheads with little political power, although they still preside over hearings to resolve tribal disputes. The National House of Traditional Leaders advises parliament on issues of customary law.

Seven of South Africa's 13 kingships were approved after a six-year study by the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims. The other six will end when the incumbent ruler dies, with their successors becoming lower-ranking leaders.

"The apartheid regime created its own traditional leadership at the expense of authentic leadership in some communities," Zuma said. "It was how those in charge divided and disunited people.

"We urge all communities to accept the findings in the spirit of correcting the wrongs of the past, and as part of the country's nation-building efforts."

The move will also mean savings for the South African taxpayer because each monarchy is subsidised by the government.

Zuma added: "The finding must help all affected communities to begin the path of acceptance, healing and reconciliation.

"We have always been able to find ways of resolving issues, and of accepting even the most difficult of solutions for the good of the country. We must face the truth, even if it is uncomfortable, and move forward."

But leaders of the six kingships affected by the move have said they will challenge their demotion in court. One political analyst, who did not wish to be named, said: "Whatever the circumstances of their appointment, some of the leaders have come to think of themselves as royalty and won't go quietly.

In some contexts, there is a risk of violence between rival groups."

But Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, described the threat of violence as "implausible". He added: "There will be quibbles over which monarchies were legitimate and which weren't, but there was a great deal of manipulation under apartheid of traditional institutions. The decisions look pretty expected and sensible."

The leaders of South Africa's two biggest tribal groups, the Zulus and Xhosas, will not be affected. Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini, who has six wives, demonstrated his influence recently by launching a campaign to the revive the custom of male circumcision as a means of combating HIV/ Aids.

Another king to survive the cull is Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo of the AbaThembu clan, who has urged about half the nation, including Johannesburg, to secede from South Africa. This was after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year for charges including culpable homicide, arson and assault.

Khosi Fhumulani Kutama, chairman of the National House of Traditional Leaders, said he would attempt to persuade the affected monarchs of the merits of the decision.

"We have been waiting for this decision for a long time," he told South Africa's Mercury newspaper. "It will help us build our democracy. It is important that people accept it not only for the institution of traditional leadership but for the whole country."

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