n AFFRIKA Journal of Politics, Economics and Society - Traditional leadership, democracy and human rights : a theoretical quagmire

Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-4936
  • E-ISSN: 2075-6534


Traditional leadership in South Africa is an example of the tension that exists between democracy and human rights as defined in Eurocentric terms, on the one hand, and social group rights as theoretically enshrined in the South African Constitution, on the other hand. This tension is borne by other theoretical dilemmas, especially in academic discourse, namely the ambivalence around the notion of 'culture' in South African academic discourse; entanglement of political and theoretical missions on issues of culture and identity; and a convenient era-centrism of academic analysis of culture and identity in South Africa that impacts on the lack of resolve around traditional leadership. The aim of this paper is to unpack these theoretical tensions by referring to current analysis of traditional leadership in South Africa. It classifies various academic strands on traditional leadership into two schools of thought. It then suggests that some of theological and 'objective' positions on the unacceptability of the institution of traditional leaderships within a democratic dispensation derive from a specific, culturally rooted definition of democracy and human rights that is domineering over the diverse social ideologies informing indigenous knowledge systems.

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