South Africa moves to bury apartheid era legacy, saying kings were appointed as part of divide-and-rule strategy
Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini will not be affected by Jacob Zuma's ruling. Reuters/Mike Hutchings Photograph: Reuters Photographer / Reuters/Reuters
Nearly half of South Africa's traditional monarchies are to be abolished in a government move to bury another legacy of the apartheid era.
Some of the kings were originally appointed by the white minority government with few legitimate claims to their thrones, a report found. They were part of a divide and rule strategy to undermine opposition to the apartheid regime, said Jacob Zuma, the South African president.
Zuma announced that six out of 13 monarchies would be derecognised to correct "the wrongs of the past" and defuse tensions among rival leaders. He stressed that no one would be accused of being an apartheid collaborator.
South Africa is a constitutional democracy and its traditional monarchs are symbolic figureheads with little political power, although they still preside over hearings to resolve tribal disputes. The National House of Traditional Leaders advises parliament on issues of customary law.
Seven of South Africa's 13 kingships were approved after a six-year study by the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims. The other six will end when the incumbent ruler dies, with their successors becoming lower-ranking leaders.
"The apartheid regime created its own traditional leadership at the expense of authentic leadership in some communities," Zuma said. "It was how those in charge divided and disunited people.
"We urge all communities to accept the findings in the spirit of correcting the wrongs of the past, and as part of the country's nation-building efforts."
The move will also mean savings for the South African taxpayer because each monarchy is subsidised by the government.
Zuma added: "The finding must help all affected communities to begin the path of acceptance, healing and reconciliation…
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