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Chieftaincy, the State, and Democracy

Political Legitimacy in Post-Apartheid South Africa

J. Michael Williams

Publication Year: 2010

As South Africa consolidates its democracy, chieftaincy has remained a controversial and influential institution that has adapted to recent changes. J. Michael Williams examines the chieftaincy and how it has sought to assert its power since the end of apartheid. By taking local-level politics seriously and looking closely at how chiefs negotiate the new political order, Williams takes a position between those who see the chieftaincy as an indigenous democratic form deserving recognition and protection, and those who view it as incompatible with democracy. Williams describes a network of formal and informal accommodations that have influenced the ways state and local authorities interact. By focusing on local perceptions of the chieftaincy and its interactions with the state, Williams reveals an ongoing struggle for democratization at the local and national levels in South Africa.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

This project has taken more than ten years to complete, and during this period I have relied upon a wonderful group of people for support and assistance. There is simply no way I would have had the stamina or fortitude to complete this book if it were not for the encouragement of this group of colleagues, friends, and family members. ...


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pp. xiii

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1. Introduction: The Chieftaincy, the State, and the Desire to Dominate

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pp. 1-38

The current political order in South Africa is one that reflects both continuity and change with its apartheid past. Its transition to democracy in the early 1990s, heralded around the world as a “miracle,” resulted in one of the most progressive constitutions in the world that sought to establish strong democratic institutions. ...

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2. “The Binding Together of the People”: The Historical Development of the Chieftaincy and the Principle of Unity

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pp. 39-79

In the current debates in South Africa concerning the chieftaincy, the past is prologue, to the extent that the positions that many politicians, journalists, and academics take on whether the chieftaincy should exist in post-apartheid South Africa are based on their interpretation of chieftaincy-societal and chieftaincy-state relations in the past. ...

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3. The Making of a Mixed Polity: The Accommodation and Transformation of the Chieftaincy

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pp. 80-107

This chapter examines the national debates concerning the chieftaincy in the 1990s and how the chieftaincy has been officially integrated into the post-apartheid constitutional order, from the writing of the 1993 interim constitution to the adoption of the TLGF Act in 2003 and the Communal Land Act in 2004. ...

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4. The Contested Nature of Politics, Democracy, and Rights in Rural South Africa

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pp. 108-136

To understand the legitimation process in rural South Africa, it is important to recognize that these areas have not been immune from the broader sociopolitical changes that have occurred since the early 1990s. Indeed, it is one of the assumptions of the multiple-legitimacies framework that there are competing worldviews in the rural areas. ...

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5. The Chieftaincy and the Establishment of Local Government: Multiple Boundaries and the Ambiguities of Representation

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pp. 137-167

One of the central premises of the LG White Paper in 1998 was that the sources of authority for the chieftaincy and local government would be distinct. In this way, the ANC hoped that it could accommodate the chieftaincy while simultaneously creating democratic government at the local level. ...

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6. The Chieftaincy and Development: Expanding the Parameters of Tradition

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pp. 168-194

One of the most critical issues for those living in the former Bantustan areas is the implementation of rural development projects. Given the devastating development policies during apartheid, this is not surprising. What I did not expect, however, was the extent to which those living in these areas expected ...

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7. Legitimacy Lost? The Fall of a Chief and the Survival of a Chieftaincy

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pp. 195-216

The preceding chapters have explored how the chieftaincy has responded to the sociopolitical changes since the early 1990s. While the rural political landscape has been altered with the introduction of elections, local government institutions, and development projects, many people continue to remain loyal to traditional leaders ...

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8. Conclusion: The Chieftaincy and the Post-Apartheid State: Legitimacy and Democracy in a Mixed Polity

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pp. 217-232

When South Africans went to the polls in 1994, it not only marked the culmination of an arduous transition process but also initiated the establishment of a mixed polity. Through its incorporation of the chieftaincy, South Africa joined a growing number of African states that have decided to blend together the principles of liberal democracy ...


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pp. 233-254


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pp. 255-274


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pp. 275-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004079
E-ISBN-10: 0253004071
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354181

Page Count: 300
Illustrations: 6 maps
Publication Year: 2010