Sam Rugege discusses the role of traditional leadership in the context of the democratic dispensation in which elected local government has been established throughout South Africa. He traces the instution from its pre-colonial form to its distortion under colonialism and apartheid and notes the considerable powers and functions enjoyed by traditional leaders at the dawn of democracy.

Looking at the constitutional provisions dealing with traditional leadership in comparison to the powers and functions accorded to elected local government, the author discusses the struggle of traditional leaders to retain the powers they had under apartheid and argues that the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill 2003, aimed at transforming the institution in accordance with the values of democracy and equality, goes a long way in accommodating traditional leaders and charting a potentially important role for them in the new democracy.

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