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Understanding Traditional Leadership Structures

In terms of Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act 2009 (Act 23 of 2009), the structure of the institution of traditional leadership comprises of different levels of traditional leadership spread across eight provinces namely; Queenship/Kingship; principal traditional leadership; senior traditional leadership and headmen/headwomen.

These traditional leadership levels are guided by the principle of customs and tradition. The highest level of these structure is the Queenship/Kingship structure with eleven Kingships/Queenships. The following are the recognised Queenships/Kingships structures in the country.

Recognised Kingship/Queenships structures

1 Limpopo Bapedi ba Maroteng Kingship
2 Vhavenda Kingship
3 Balobedu Queenship
4 Mpumalanga Amandebele Kingship
5 Ndzundza-Mabhoko Kingship
6 Free State Bakoena ba Mopeli Kingship
7 Kwazulu Natal AmaZulu Kingship
8 Eastern Cape AbaThembu Kingship
9 AmaXhosa Kingship
10 AmaMpondo Kingship
11 AmaMpondo ase Nyandeni Kingship


What qualifies a Queenship/Kingship structure?

In terms of section 2A (1) of the Framework Act as amended, subject to subsection (2), a number of traditional communities that are grouped together may be recognised as a kingship or queenship if they—

  1. are recognised as such in terms of applicable provincial legislation;
  2. each have a recognised traditional council with a defined area of jurisdiction in terms of applicable provincial legislation;
  3. each have a senior traditional leader recognised in terms of the applicable provincial legislation;
  4. recognise a recognised senior traditional leader, who is of higher status than the other senior traditional leaders in terms of custom and customary law, as their king or queen;
  5. recognise themselves as a distinct group of traditional communities separate from principal traditional communities and all other traditional communities; and
  6. have a system of traditional leadership at a kingship or queenship level.

(2)          The traditional communities applying for recognition as a kingship or queenship must have a proven history of existence, with a recognised senior traditional leader of higher status as a king or queen in terms of customary law of succession.

Who appoints or recommends the appointment of traditional leaders?

In terms of section 22(1) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims (CTLDC) was established to investigate disputes and claims on traditional leadership.

The Commission operates nationally in plenary and provincially in committees and has authority to investigate and make recommendations on any traditional leadership dispute and claim contemplated in subsection 25 (2).