The IFP, the main opposition party in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature, wants izinduna (headmen and headwomen) to earn the same salaries as municipal councillors.
According to Thami Ntuli, the party’s premier candidate for KwaZulu-Natal, traditional leaders’ contributions to their communities make the money they receive inadequate.
“Politics have made us believe that amakhosi [chiefs] and izinduna are less important in the governance of the country,” said Ntuli.
“We are quick to forget that before politics, the kings such as Sekhukhune, Cetshwayo kaMpande, and many others were at the forefront against imperialism and colonialism.”
Ntuli was addressing a sod-turning ceremony for the construction of the amakhosi chambers.
The state-of-the-art facility will serve as a meeting point for all traditional leaders in the King Cetshwayo municipality.
In 2015, former president Jacob Zuma decided to standardise the pay of over 5 000 izinduna to a fixed rate of R 84 125, which equates to R7 010 a month.
Zuma was acting on the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.
Waging land battles
According to Ntuli, traditional leaders had fought tenaciously against land dispossession long before land expropriation became popular among the political elite.
He cited the Battle of Isandlwana and the Battle of the Blood River as some of the wars fought by the kings and their subjects.
On December 16 1938, the Zulu warriors confronted the Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius’ leadership at the Battle of the Blood River.
Generals Ndlela kaSompisi and Dambuza, also known as Nzobe, were in charge of leading the Zulu warriors.
The Afrikaners named the local Ncome River Bloedrivier, or Blood River, to commemorate their victory over the Zulu warriors because the blood of the dead caused the water to turn red.
The Zulu regiments, equipped with spears and shields, routed the formidable British troops in the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879.
Traditional leaders are key
“The role of traditional leaders should not be swept under the rug,” Ntuli said.
“They must not be relegated to being spectators, but they must be key decision-makers in structures of governance. It boggles one’s mind as to why izinduna are not paid the same salaries as councillors.”
KwaZulu-Natal accounts for more than 3 000 headmen and headwomen. The KwaZulu-Natal government announced an R600-million package for the izinduna in 2023.
Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube stated that the funds would be used to pay the izinduna’s outstanding salaries.
Ntuli additionally demanded that the government designate personal protectors for traditional leaders facing danger to their lives.
The district of King Cetshwayo has been the most severely affected by the province’s highest rate of traditional leaders’ assassinations.