n Ubuntu : Journal of Conflict and Social Transformation - Emerging values from the African traditional system and institutions in a democratic South Africa

Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-760X
  • E-ISSN: 2050-4950


Since becoming a democratic nation, South Africa has witnessed myriad of issues that highlight the constant clash between constitutional democratic values and the values embedded in the culture and traditions of the African people. In this country, two distinct sets of values continue to push the boundaries of each other to claim their rights before the highest Court in the land. On the one hand are the values of equality, dignity and democratic rule of law located in the constitutional principles of a democratic South Africa; and on the other hand, found within the traditional institution is both communitarian and authoritarian values. More recently, judicial review of actions of traditional leaders has highlighted a number of issues such as resource accountability within their jurisdiction and the constitutionality of the traditional leaders and their institution in a democratic South Africa. This is an interesting development in our customary law system where reverence to the office and leadership of the traditional leader is shifting from total obedience to one where secession of a community is seriously contended. Traditional institution acts as both organ of state and as a social structure, well-positioned to drive social change. Since the attainment of democracy in South Africa, the recognition and role of traditional institution in deepening our democratic values have been somewhat incoherent. This uncertainty regarding their roles has brought significant changes to the institution with people demanding accountability and transparency generally from government, but more specifically, from the traditional institutions who still wield immense power within the rural communities. This article provides an understanding of the emerging values from the unique South African model of a "fused" legal system by highlighting the recent developments with regard to political rights, governance and the democratisation of traditional institutions in South Africa.

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