The Role of the Royal Family in Transforming the Institution of Traditional Leadership in South Africa




Customary law, traditional leaders, royal family, transformation, gender equality


This article focuses on the institutional role of the royal family in the promotion of the transformative aspirations of the new dawn of democracy, particularly the right to gender equality within the institution of traditional leadership. The article argues that the royal family is foundational to the regulation of traditional authority regarding the pursuit of the principles of non-discrimination to ensure the preservation of the identity of the institution of traditional leadership. The argument is limited to the institution that follows the patriarchal system of governance with ascension to the throne that is restricted to males only and not on matrilineal systems, regency, or any other leadership position that is available within the institution. The focus is triggered by the constitutionalised status of customary law that has subjected the institution of traditional leadership under intense constitutional scrutiny for its compliance with the transformative ideals of the constitutional dispensation. Such scrutiny is grounded by the Constitution, 1996 which is contextualised by the adoption of the Traditional Leadership and Khoisan Act 3 of 2019 (National Act), which gave the institution affirmative responsibilities to promote principles of equality and non-discrimination. This role is of keen interest, particularly with the judicial developments that have opened opportunities for women within royal households to ascend to the throne. These opportunities then raise a question regarding the preservation of the institutional identity of the traditional community.


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How to Cite

Ntlama-Makhanya, Nomthandazo. “The Role of the Royal Family in Transforming the Institution of Traditional Leadership in South Africa”. Journal of Law, Society and Development, 20 pages.



Received 2023-10-26
Accepted 2024-04-08
Published 2024-05-30