Do we get value for money from our traditional leaders? That’s the question being asked by the provincial Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs.
However, Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders deputy chairperson Zolile Burns-Ngcamashe has disputed any “insinuation no value for money was derived from the institution”.
The matter came to the fore this week after it emerged that a whopping R227 million per year is spent on salaries and support services for Eastern Cape kings, chiefs and headmen – R29m more than on the salaries of the department personnel.
And this could increase because new chiefs and headmen are recognised on a monthly basis.
The amount also exceeds the R224m spent on salaries for support to municipalities – including programmes such as Operation Clean Audit, capacity support in finance, administration, land use management, municipal infrastructure grants, disaster management and community development workers.
On Thursday, Traditional Affairs head of department Stanley Khanyile said the costs for traditional leaders were the highest in the country and made up 37 percent of the department’s annual budget.
“I’m happy with how much support we provide to traditional leadership, but what we need to deal with is how to utilise them so we get value for money. We must just get value for that money.”
Of the R227m, a total of R147m goes to salaries for royalty, including six kings, over 200 chiefs, and more than 1 200 headmen, while R80m goes to support services for the royals and the House of Traditional Leaders in Bhisho.
The staff bill for the department in Bhisho is R118m.
Burns-Ngcamashe, however, said that traditional leadership, as envisaged in the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act of 2003, was underfunded.
He said an additional R800m was needed from national government for traditional leadership to be fully functional from local to provincial level.
“Traditional leaders have to do a lot of improvisation with what is substantially no resourcing. To say we are under-resourced would be an understatement.”
Most traditional councils were in an “appalling state of disrepair”, he said, and no capacity training was provided. These leaders also had no real say in local councils’ development planning.
The costs emerged when the provincial Legislature sat this week to consider the budget for the financial year ending in 2012.
Opposition members in the Traditional Affairs oversight committee accused government of failing to create policy for the role of traditional leadership, saying this rendered traditional leaders almost useless.
The DA’s Veliswa Mvenya said the department had a framework spelling out traditional leaders’ role in society. “But before the department established institutions such as traditional councils, there should have been terms of reference and a framework so that there is a way of accountability.
“Right now the councils are stalled and even the buildings are in a bad state,” she said.
Cope’s Mbulelo Ntenjwa said until traditional leaders were integrated into local government, no value would be derived. A clear role would provide dignity and a sense of purpose for traditional leaders.
“Traditional leaders should be at the centre of rural development because they are in the communities,” he said.
It also emerged at the Legislative sitting that during the past financial year, the department spent 77 percent of its R812m budget on compensation for employees, despite a vacancy rate of 53 percent.
Khanyile said this was because the department’s organogram was outdated and also because traditional leaders were included under the category of staff.
The problem was compounded by a constant increase in the number on traditional leaders.
“The minute there is a village that meets the criteria (for a headman or chief), they apply and we have to recognise them.