LARC Lunchtime Seminar: 16 November 2023


Traditional Authority and Public Participation: The Quality of Representative and Participatory Democracy in Rural South Africa

Date: Thursday, 16 November 2023

Time: 13h00 – 15h00 (refreshments will be served from 12.30)

Venue: KRAM 4A, Kramer Law Faculty, Middle Campus

Virtual link:


In this paper, I critique the intricate relationship between traditional authorities and rural communities pertaining to the participation of rural citizens in the decision-making processes. First, the paper explores the historical and constitutional context of traditional authorities in South Africa, looking at their roles, significance, and impact on rural governance. I examine the influence of traditional leadership in decision-making, resource allocation, and the implementation of policy at the local government level. Second, the paper analyses the extent to which rural communities are involved in the decision-making processes. I argue that the current mechanisms for public participation in rural communities are insufficient and manipulatable.

To illustrate this, I draw from jurisprudence where the lack of participation by rural communities has been critiqued. I examine the common obstacles that rural communities face when trying to ensure fair representation, participation, and accountability within traditional leadership structures. Third, I argue that the dynamics of power between traditional authorities and rural communities create a constitutionally impermissible hierarchy between representative and participatory democracy. I argue that both elements of democracy are crucial and interdependent in a constitutional democracy. In conclusion, the paper analyses the effectiveness of participatory approaches in promoting community development, enhancing service delivery, and fostering social cohesion in rural communities. I argue for the formulation of policy that promotes a more inclusive and effective governance system that balances traditional authority with the principles of participatory democracy in rural South Africa.


Wandile Brian Zondo holds an LLB from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and an LLM in Environmental Law from the University of Cape Town (UCT). He is a former Teaching Assistant for the Department of Public Law at UCT and currently a Research Assistant at the Land and Accountability Research Centre (LARC). Wandile is also a PhD Candidate in Public Law at the UCT.

Please RSVP both in-person and online attendance to Amilinda Wilkinson:

Email: OR Tel: 021 650 3288

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