In KwaZulu-Natal, two forms of government, the traditional and the democratically elected, operate side by side — a state of affairs that is not always harmonious, as we witness the differences that sometimes occur between the royal house headed by King Goodwill Zwelithini and the legislature. It’s essential to note that some 51% of the population is located in rural areas under the jurisdiction of amakhosi, so that it isn’t possible here to emulate many other democratic countries in which the people govern themselves through their elected representatives only and the roles of the monarch and the nobility have become mainly titular and ceremonial. So, although the legislative power in the province is held by democratic institutions, traditional leadership needs to be accommodated.
Now, one source of discontent may have been eliminated. The KwaZulu-Natal Legislature last week passed an amendment which should usher in a “dispute-free era” in the institution of traditional leadership. The current practice, whereby the eldest son of an inkosi automatically assumes power after his father’s death, will now fall away. Instead, a reigning inkosi will have the power to choose the successor he believes is best suited to take charge of his jurisdiction. Following the appointment of an independent and impartial registrar, the name of the chosen successor will be entered in a registry of succession and kept secret until after the inkosi’s death. This measure should help eliminate disputes over succession which often lead to bloodshed.