Indigenous Law and Democracy in South Africa: The example of the Zulu Monarchy and the Balobedu
Sihloniphile Precious Bhebhe (University of Zululand, South Africa)

This paper interrogates the extent to which the existence of monarchies in South Africa is compatible with the attempt to deepen democracy in the country. The paper examines the practices involved in nominating and installing successors to traditional leadership roles against South Africa’s 1996 constitution in general and the Bill of rights in particular. Some of the questions the paper seeks to address include whether the constitution itself can be seen as a violation of longstanding cultural practices and how the values of equality and freedom can be reconciled with the hereditary rights of traditional rulers. The paper focuses on the Zulu and Balobedu monarchies which perform an important role in bridging the gap and potentially forging a balance between historical customs and modern democracy in South Africa. It also discusses the current legal challenges of succession they are both facing. Towards this end, the paper provides a comparative review of constitutional provisions relating to traditional leadership and accounts of the Zulu and Balobedu customary laws concerning monarchical succession. The divergences and convergences between the two highlight the inequity and undemocratic nature of traditional succession customs in South Africa.