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Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act Under the Spotlight

March 8, 2021

The Presidency

The Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act will come into effect on 1 April 2021.

President Ramaphosa highlighted this during an address at the official opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders.

Proclamation 38 was published in Government Gazette 43981 in December 2020.

President Ramaphosa signed the act in November 2019.

Parliament passed the bill and sent it to the president for assent in February 2019.

The bill was tabled in 2015.

Drawn up by the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department, the bill sought to make provision for the recognition of Khoi-San communities and repeal and replace the Framework Act and the National House Act.

According to the bill’s memorandum, the repealing and replacing of the two acts was intended to:


• Ensure an integrated approach to all matters dealing with traditional affairs;
• Strengthen the uniform manner in which traditional affairs matters are dealt with across the country; and
• To address legal uncertainties and gaps identified in the two acts.
Three key objectives of the act are to:
• Transform traditional and Khoi-San institutions in line with constitutional principles;
• Restore the integrity and legitimacy of traditional and Khoi-San leadership institutions in line with customary law and practices; and
• Protect and promote traditional and Khoi-San leadership institutions.
Other objectives of the act are, inter alia, to:
• provide for the recognition of traditional and Khoi-San communities, leadership positions and for the withdrawal of such recognition;
• provide for the functions and roles of traditional and Khoi-San leaders;
• provide for the recognition, establishment, functions, roles and administration of kingship or queenship councils, principal traditional councils, traditional councils, Khoi-San councils and traditional sub-councils, as well as the support to such councils;
• provide for the establishment, composition and functioning of the National House of Traditional and Khoi-San Leaders;
• provide for the establishment of provincial houses of traditional and Khoi-San leaders;
• provide for the establishment and composition of local houses of traditional and Khoi-San leaders;
• provide for the establishment and operation of the Commission on Khoi-San Matters;
• provide for a code of conduct for members of the National House, provincial houses, local houses and all traditional and Khoi-San councils;
• provide for regulatory powers of the Minister and Premiers;
• provide for transitional arrangements;
• amend certain Acts;
• provide for the repeal of legislation; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

The act seeks to ensure that traditional and Khoi-San leadership institutions promote democratic governance; advance gender equality; promote freedom, human dignity and the achievement of equality and non-sexism and strive to enhance tradition and culture.

The president described the coming into effect of the act as a “significant milestone”.

“The country’s Khoi and San leaders will, after following the prescribed processes, for the first time enjoy official recognition and will serve in the National and Provincial Houses”, he said.

The president also referred to the Customary Initiation Bill, currently on the national assembly (NA) Order Paper for consideration.

The select committee on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, water and sanitation and human settlements introduced amendments to the bill and returned it to the NA for concurrence in December 2020.

The bill was tabled in parliament in April 2018 and the NA passed it and sent it to the national council of provinces (NCOP) for concurrence at the end of 2018.

The NCOP revived the bill in October 2019.

The bill seeks to:


• provide for the effective regulation of customary initiation practices;
• provide for the establishment of a National Initiation Oversight Committee and Provincial Initiation Coordinating Committees and their functions;
• provide for the responsibilities, roles and functions of the various role-players involved in initiation practices as such or in the governance aspects thereof;
• provide for the effective regulation of initiation schools;
• to provide for regulatory powers of the Minister and Premiers;
• provide for the monitoring of the implementation of this Act;
• provide for provincial peculiarities; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the bill’s memorandum, it seeks to protect, promote and regulate initiation by providing acceptable norms and standards, structures at national and provincial level to ensure that initiation takes place in a controlled and safe environment and clarity on the various responsibilities, roles and functions of the key role-players in customary initiation.

Highlighting the need to implement initiatives designed to get the South African economy back on track, stimulate job creation and support community development, the president referred to the InvestRural Master Plan launched in Phokeng on 25 February 2021.

“The Master Plan is expected to capacitate traditional leaders, traditional councils and communities to fight rural poverty and foster self-sufficiency”, he said.