Monday, 15 August 2011

Democracy Compromised: Chiefs and the politics of land in South Africa

by Lungisile Ntsebeza
Democracy Compromised

Democracy Compromised puts the spotlight on traditional authorities and addresses two main issues: first, how despite their role in the apartheid state, traditional authorities not only survived, but have won unprecedented powers of rural governance in South Africa’s democracy, and second, how they derive their authority. In this original and compelling study, Lungisile Ntsebeza carefully details the fascinating history of the chieftaincy in the Xhalanga area of the Eastern Cape.

He shows how traditional authorities have been dependent on the support of the state since the advent of colonialism and how deeply traditional structures have been contested. Light is shed on the unexpected renaissance of these authorities under ANC rule and the role of traditional leaders in the process of land allocation is clearly explained. Written by one of the leading scholars on the South African land reform programme and democratisation in rural South Africa, this book will be of particular interest to academics, researchers, students, activists and policy makers.


 1. Traditional authorities, democracy and the land question: Some conceptual and theoretical considerations
2. The Xhalanga district and its people : 1865 - 1883
3. The land question and local governance in Xhalanga : 1883-1924
4. Rural local governance in Xhalanga in the era of the District Council: The struggle continues
5. Tribal authorities and the revival of chieftainship in Xhalanga
6. ‘Tshisa, tshisa’ (Burn, burn): The struggle against tribal authorities intensifies
7. The era of Bantu Authorities in the Xhalanga district: A decentralised despotism?
8. Democracy compromised: post-1994 retribalisation
9. Conclusion

Extract from review by Peter Limb (Michigan State University) in African Book Publishing Record Vol. XXXIV, No. 4, 2008:

"Well produced, with clear maps, and co-published with Brill (2005), the book is a beautifully sculptured revised doctorate that outlines and explains the history and sociology of traditional authorities in Xhalanga district, Transkei, from the late nineteenth century to the present. Central to the author’s thesis is the intersection of democracy, rural local governance, power and land. He guides the reader effortlessly through this history... ...Democracy Compromised: Chiefs and the Politics of the Land in South Africa is a significant work of considerable value to all scholars, students, practitioners and libraries interested in South African politics, sociology, and studies of land and chieftaincies."

Extract from review by Maanda Mulaudzi (University of Cape Town) in the Journal of Southern African Studies Vol. 33 No. 3 / September 2007 pp.698-700:

"These studies [Ntsebeza's Democracy Compromised: Chiefs and the Politics of the Land in South Africa and Oomen's Chiefs in South Africa: Law, Power and Culture in the Post-Apartheid Era] are important contributions to our understanding of the relationship between democracy, chiefs and customary law in South Africa and Africa more generally. Thoroughly researched, both are written in an engaging style."