Traditional Leaders' Conditions of Service: Departmental & National House Traditional Leaders' briefings

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

10 September 2013
Chairperson: Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Traditional Affairs (DTA) presented a summary of its Framework for the Provision of Enabling Resources for a Member of the National House of Traditional Leaders, a Member of any Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, and Traditional Leader. This Framework was intended to provide norms and standards, and help to achieve good governance and uniformity, by specifying the resources that should be allocated to traditional leaders. The DTA, in consultation with responsible departments and the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, had drafted a document that sought to delimit the “tools of trade” that would be provided to members of the National or Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, and traditional leaders, provide norms and standards and attempt to achieve uniformity. Examples of such “tools of trade” included accommodation and furniture, security, special needs facilities, basic office infrastructure and support staff, reading materials, study assistance, travelling facilities and reimbursement of expenses. It was recognised that traditional leaders were, in practice and by various legislation, expected to carry out certain functions in support of government, including identifying needs of communities, assisting with recommendations into service delivery and interventions, involving communities in development, integrated development plans, cooperating with ward committees and municipalities, generally promoting cooperative governance, and promoting indigenous knowledge systems for sustainable development. It was noted that at the moment there was lack of uniformity in provision of resources, with KwaZulu Natal generally offering more resources, and the accommodation provided to various categories of officials differed. Some examples were given of car and cellphone allowances, size of homes, furniture provided, and the requirements for determination of value of furniture, security needs were described. The proposed Framework ha been presented to MinMEC on 16 August but this meeting asked that it be re-examined with a view to reducing the financial implications. A revised document was presented on 2 September, but the Minister would obtain written commentary from MECs responsible for traditional affairs, and the matter would again be considered on 26 September. At this stage, therefore, the DTA was asking the Committee to note the presentation and proffer support for further development of the Framework.

Members asked the Department whether budget was taken into account when the Framework was being drafted, and what its guiding principles when drafting it. Some Members questioned the purpose behind standardisation, one Member suggested that it might be unconstitutional to force provinces to act in a certain way, or to require return of assets already given, but others supported standardisation as a step in the process of holding traditional leaders more accountable. There was discussion whether the Framework represented equalisation or focused more on minimum norms and standards. Members asked for clarity on the role of the Independent Commission on Remuneration of Office Bearers. They questioned why some of the information presented was incomplete or not comprehensive, and commented that they needed more clarity. Members asked if traditional leaders’ input was sought, and if there were mechanisms at present to monitor the allocation of resources and the performance of leaders, as well as whether they were oblige to disclose their assets. One ANC Member questioned why, in principle, traditional leaders were to be paid, as he believed that this departed from their traditional role, commenting that they had historically had the power to tax their communities, but others pointed out that the nature of traditional leadership was changing, that leaders were expected to support communities without the necessary resources coming from the community to do this, and that leaders could not be forced to remain in their totally traditional roles without modernisation. In general, the Committee was agreed that increasing accountability was important and criticised the culture of dishonesty.

Meeting report

Traditional Leaders’ Conditions of Service: Briefing by Department of Traditional Affairs
Dr Masenjana Sibandze, Deputy Director General, Department of Traditional Affairs apologised for the absence of Professor Charles Nwaila, Director-General of the Department Traditional Affairs (DTA or the Department). He tabled a presentation on the Framework for the Provision of Enabling Resources for a Member of the National House of Traditional Leaders, a Member of any Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, and Traditional Leaders and explained that this Framework was a summary of a much more extensive document. It would essentially inform the Portfolio Committee on progress made by the Department in developing a Framework towards standardisation of enabling resources (Tools of Trade), to help traditional leaders carry out their functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently.

The Tools of Trade identified by the Department were intended to provide norms and standards in ensuring good governance and achieving uniformity, thereby eliminating any confusion and inconsistencies in the allocation of resources. He noted that the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers (the Commission) had, by way of Government Notice 693 of 29 August 2011, made recommendations about the nature of appropriate tools of trade for a member of a National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL), a member of any Provincial House of Traditional Leaders (PHTL), and a Traditional Leader. In consultation with responsible departments and the National and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders the DTA then drafted a framework outlining the exact nature and limit of such tools of trade. The DTA concluded that the tools of trade necessary to enable traditional leaders to function were:  
-accommodation and furniture;
-special needs facilities;
-basic office infrastructure;
-reading material;
-study assistance;
-support staff;
-official travelling facilities; and
-reimbursement for expenses

Dr Sibanze expanded that the tools of trade would equip traditional leaders to carry out functions as provided for in applicable legislation. He reminded Members that these functions were intended to assist government in identifying the needs of communities, in order that recommendations on relevant interventions into development and service delivery could be made. The functions also facilitated the
involvement of traditional communities in the development and / or amendments of Integrated Development Planning (IDPs). Functions included cooperation with ward committees, entering into partnerships with municipalities and generally promoting the ideals of cooperative governance. Traditional leaders should also play a part in promoting indigenous knowledge systems for sustainable development.

Dr Sibanze noted that at present, there was inconsistent application of resources to traditional leaders in the different provinces. Provinces adopted their own methods for distributing resources such as motor vehicle and cell phones. Accommodation provided in state-owned residences by kings/queens, principal traditional leaders, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the National House and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders also differed, according to the official titles. For instance, a king/queen would reside in a home consisting of a maximum of 450m², whilst a Deputy Chairperson would reside in a house which was a maximum of 250m². Furniture, which was defined by the Department as movable articles in state owned residences of kings/queens, principal traditional leaders, chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of the National House and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders, was limited to the ordinary household furniture, whose maximum value was to be determined by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in consultation with the Minister of Public Works and relevant MECs. A security analysis for kings/queens, principal traditional leaders, chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of the National House and Provincial Houses of Traditional Leaders must be conducted by the Minister of Safety and Security, at the request of the Minister for Traditional Affairs in consultation with the relevant Premiers. Following the security analysis, appropriate security arrangements must be made by the relevant authorities when catering to the needs of the resource recipients.

The DTA had presented the proposed framework to the MinMEC (Minister and Members of Executive Council) on 16 August 2013. MinMEC had resolved that the Framework be re-examined, and the financial implications being cast on the state needed to be reassessed and decreased. A revised framework was presented to MinMEC on 2 September 2013. This meeting resolved that the Minister should obtain written commentary on the amended framework from the MECs responsible for Traditional Affairs. The matter would then be referred again to MinMEC for discussion and adoption on 26 September 2013 for consideration and adoption.

The Department asked the Portfolio Committee to take note of the presentation, give input and endorse the presentation. It also asked that the Committee support development of the Framework towards standardisation of resources for traditional leaders.

Mr J Matshoba (ANC) sought clarity on the responsibility of the traditional authorities that would warrant their pay. If it was said that looking after communities was their core function, then they did not need money, and the Department could not claim security as part of their pay. Mr Matshoba questioned the references to “their” and made the point that traditional leaders were effectively employed by the communities. He observed that there seemed to be a shift from their core function as traditional leaders and their salaries were paid by government. However, he reiterated his question what exactly the traditional leaders were doing to earn this money, unless they were actually assisting government on service delivery. He believed that assistance with service delivery would be achieved if those leaders actually did assist government to realise the needs of the communities and really assist with service delivery. He asked why there was an apparent shift on what the chiefs were intended to do, and asked again why it was suggested that they needed more money.

The Chairperson said the Framework enabling resources for traditional leaders was indeed fostering a movement away from traditional culture and norms, and favouring overt modernisation. 

Ms W Nelson (ANC) asked the Department whether a budget was taken into account when the Framework was being drafted. She wondered what the guiding principles were when drafting the document.

Mr P F Smith (IFP) said he did not understand the Department’s rationale for standardisation, and would like to hear more on this point, and also more clarity on the role of the Independent Commission. He asked what the legal status would be of the Department’s Framework, should the Commission make a recommendation to a Province, but the Province refused to comply, and what steps could then be taken by the Commission.

Mr Smith asked why the application of motor vehicles did not reflect the current situation in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. There was a total of 8 000 traditional leaders in South Africa, and this document was suggesting that all the leaders were attending to matters within the hierarchy of traditional leaders and assumed they were all doing the same thing. However, the vast majority of traditional leaders were not even covered under this document.

Mr Smith questioned why the Department of Public Works (DPW) apparently had rights to the resources such as accommodation and furniture. He noted that some of the provinces were offering more benefits than recorded in the presented document.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) said she needed clarity on the Department’s recommended tools of trade, and questioned if the cell phone allowances gifted to all official members were expected to come from the province, the Department or both. She asked how long Kings and Queens were allowed to stay in the houses provided to them, and whether it was the government’s responsibility to provide them with furniture. 

Ms M Segale-Diswai (ANC) thanked the Department for its presentation but asked that in future the documents should be paginated. She asked the Department with whom it had worked when developing the Framework, and whether this had included traditional leaders. She noted the comment on provision of cars to official bodies in the different provinces, but asked whether these cars were subsidised at a certain stage and what mechanisms were put in place to monitor the unlimited petrol cards or funding. She noted that in Gauteng, there were two chiefs but the Framework failed to mention whether they would receive a cell phone. She found the document to be confusing and it seemed to set out matters in relation to office bearers, more than traditional leaders.

The Chairperson said it was problematic that resources being allocated to kings / queens were not regulated and that, at their own discretion and without any consultation, kings could appoint.

Mr G Boinamo (ANC) said if provinces continued to provide traditional leaders with all these resources it would negatively impact the overall availability of resources in the country. He believed that standardisation was necessary, and suggested that salaries needed to be the same across the board. He asked the Department what would happen to the resources when normalisation occurred, whether the state would reclaim excess assets, or if they would be regarded as gifts. He also questioned what would happen to the assets on the death of a king or queen. He believed that the security provisions stated by the Framework were unnecessary, and perpetuated a divide between the traditional leaders and their people, pointing out that the leaders were supposed to be loved and fully supported by their community.

Mr T Bonhomme (ANC) said traditional culture was drastically changing and was becoming dangerously westernized. This Framework was according these official bodies a life of luxury, and the assets they were asking for were unrealistic.

Ms C Mosimane (COPE) asked the Department if it had an Evaluation Framework and an Annual Performance Plan. She asked whether the needs of the provinces were identified during the drafting of this Framework. She agreed with Mr Bonhomme that the overtly frivolous lifestyles adopted by many of the official bodies was a shame, particularly when their communities were living very poorly.

Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) commented that there was a huge amount of information missing from the KZN province. He asked the Department how thoroughly the Framework had analysed the issues. He was particularly concerned about the information on motor vehicle distribution, and the additional amenities. He asked whether there were performance criteria in place for traditional leaders, and what mechanisms were in place to ensure that they were held accountable if they did not perform their jobs. He questioned if they were required to make disclosures on personal assets. He considered that forcing standardisation on provinces was unconstitutional. He asked the Department whether any thought was being given to shortfalls.

Mr D Mavunda (ANC) said the Committee needed to consider whether the proposed Framework was viable and whether, in principle, traditional leaders qualified to receive such packages. When speaking of “tools of trade” a through explanation was required, and full clarification on each package. He felt that standardisation would be beneficial, as it enabled the Committee and the provinces to exert a measure of control, and to ensure that traditional leaders were being held accountable. He noted the comments on modernisation but believed that no barriers should be placed on traditional leaders reaching a form of modernisation, and they should not be ordered to remain strictly within the confines of their tradition.

The Chairperson said it was important to preserve culture and felt that culture must not overtly change. She was under the impression that this Framework took into consideration all the traditional leaders in South Africa, and not only those who were identified as office bearers.

Mr Matshoba commented that Members were elected by the people, to defend the interests of the people, including the chiefs. This, put simply, meant that Members had to look after public resources responsibly, and it was not saying that they should be regulated by the President although provided by the state. Unfortunately, corruption was endemic. However, he would not subscribe to it. He felt that corruption included influence, and he felt that government should be concentrating on improving the lives of all people, and not the select group of chiefs. He believed that chiefs ought not to be prioritising their own interests and claiming benefits, but that they should be acting for their communities. Previously, communities would pay the chiefs, by providing cattle, but this Framework was turning the system around so that they were being paid by the state.

The Chairperson said that holding traditional leaders accountable had to be taken more seriously. The laxness of accountability measures at present was perpetuating a culture of dishonesty. She firmly believed that those who were dishonest and not accountable should be imprisoned.

Ms Ditshetelo said the Committee had previously agreed to standardisation. She said one problem with this Framework was that if a King was elected to hold office as a Chairperson, he would be paid as a Chairperson, and not given the additional benefits that a King would be awarded. She believed that a distinction was needed, in this document, between those traditional leaders who were office bearers and those who were not.

Mr Sibandze clarified that the information pertaining to the distribution of motor vehicles and the added amenities in KwaZulu Natal Province was accurately represented in the document. The Department was in favour of standardisation, as this would address the disparities and variations across the provinces.

Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, Exco Member, National House of Traditional Leaders, suggested that the Committee should be recognising traditional leaders as office bearers. The provisions highlighted in the presented Framework did not provide traditional leaders with any more amenities than it did for public office bearers. He agreed that traditional leaders, especially Kings, historically had the capacity to collect taxes from their citizens but this custom was no longer practiced to the same extent as it was  in the past. However, Kings were still expected to provide for their people from their own more limited resources. He said one could not expect the taxing of a community to fund the King, and urged that traditional leaders needed to be looked at as part of the political institution. If that was done, then it was clear why they needed support and resources to fully commit to their duties. That also supported the move to standardisation, because then all traditional leaders were regarded as falling into the same category, since they were doing the same work.

Inkosi Mahlangu acknowledged that the question of affordability was a vexed question. However, politicians perhaps needed to allow the institution of traditional leadership to evolve and then later hold more dialogue on issues beyond luxuries. He clarified that once a traditional leader had completed his term in office his house and car provided would revert back to the state. These remained state-owned assets. The

Inkosi Mahlangu confirmed that the Department was also working on a Monitoring and Evaluating Framework and this would be sent to the Committee. He was hoping that this Framework would not scale down on the resources it had outlined to provide to traditional leaders.

The Chairperson reiterated that accountability was very important and the Committee would not accept a Framework that made it difficult to hold people to account.

Inkosi Matshoba said that the fundamental point against which traditional leaders needed to measured was education. Essentially, they were performing the same function as ward councillors. He said he failed to understand why traditional leaders would be paid merely for being there and what process was in place for that. Chiefs sat in councils and made recommendations so they were being paid for attending council meetings.

The Chairperson asked the Department which legislation its recommendations fell under.

Inkosi Mahlangu said government did not put that much effort in traditional leadership when it was taking office. The property given to traditional leaders needed to be viewed the same as any other government property. He reiterated that traditional leaders needed to be viewed as public office bearers.

The Chairperson said that some of the traditional leaders were still very conservative, especially when it came to the issue of accountability.

Ms Mosimane asked the Department how it would monitor whether traditional leaders were doing their jobs properly.

Mr Sibandze reverted to comments on KwaZulu Natal (KZN) and said that there the leaders were unique in being beneficiaries of resources because the province had received a lot of support historically. There was a history and politics spanning 42 years which led to that particular province standing out. It would be unrealistic to expect other provinces to catch up. However, the proposal for standardisation was aiming for an incremental improvement in the condition of other provinces.

Mr Nathi Mpungose, General Manager: Traditional Governance and Finance, Department of Traditional Affairs, said he was not sure how quickly the other provinces could catch up to KZN. He told the Committee that the Department would source more information from KZN and pass it on to the Committee.

Mr Sibandze agreed that the Department would provide the Committee with information from KZN. He made the point that it would be unconstitutional to deprive the King of KZN of the resources he had acquired to date.

The Chairperson agreed that provinces were not the same, and asked the Department what mechanism it would put in place to bridge the inequality gap.

Mr Smith asked whether this document was about minimum norms and standards or whether it was about equalisation. The presentation was confusing in that it spoke to both equalisation it also talked about the exemption from that equalisation process.

Mr Steenhuizen was worried that the Framework was providing massive resources to traditional leaders without any mechanism in place to ensure that they accounted to the public and were held accountable if they were not performing their duties. He asked whether there was a Code of Conduct in place and, if so, how the Department was dealing with it.

The Chairperson asked members to allow the Department time to consider all the questions that were raised in the meetings. She made the point that although it was important to note the concerns, it was equally important to come up with recommendations.

Advocate Tommy Ntsewa, Deputy Director General, Department of Traditional Affairs, stated that currently there was no mechanism in place holding traditional leaders accountable for their actions, but this task was undertaken by the provinces independently. He said the Department was still relatively new and evolving and it would consider and respond to the Committee’s proposals. He conceded that some traditional leaders also pursued practices which were not in line with the constitution. There were serious transformative issues that needed to be addressed.

Mr Johan Meiring, Director: Information Management, Department of Traditional Affairs, said a lot of work went into the creation of the presented Framework. He said that the issue of costing and other technical issues would be clarified and discussed. Provinces should develop their own personal manuals to ensure that the tools of trade were budgeted for. Overall, traditional leaders accounted for a small percentage of the population, and the costs would not add up to a significant portion of the government’s budget.

The Chairperson said that once the Department had provided the Committee with more answers on issues raised in the meeting, the Committee would call for another overview of the Framework.

The meeting was adjourned.


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