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Tribal Levies

Countrywide community consultations on traditional leadership laws, held by the Centre for Law and Society, showed tribal levies to be a pressing issue. These levies are compulsory fees charged by traditional authorities from members of rural communities. They can take the form of either a fixed annual sum or ad hoc amounts for specific purposes.

A particular complaint by communities has been the withholding of “proof of address” letters by traditional leaders on the basis of non-payment of levies. “Proof of address” letters, required by the Department of Home Affairs and other institutions, are crucial for people to exercise basic citizenship rights, such as acquiring identity documents, or to access financial services by opening bank accounts.

This “double taxation” of rural people was a violently contested feature of the former Bantustan system. Although the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act does not expressly allow tribal levies, some ambiguity is created by a provision of the Act that requires traditional councils to meet at least once a year to give account of the “levies received”.

Three of the provincial statutes enacted in terms of the Framework Act declare levies unlawful but allow for “voluntary contributions”, while another three are silent on the matter. The Limpopo Act No. 6 of 2005 is the only piece of legislation that specifically authorises the levying of a compulsory traditional council rate.

Download the Limpopo Act No. 6 of 2005 in PDF

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