Rob the poor to pay the chiefs -Timeslive

Provinces are going to need to find an additional R100 million a year to pay traditional chiefs and headmen, and the money is likely to come from existing budgets in infrastructure and poverty reduction projects.

President Jacob Zuma, acting on the recommendation of the independent Commission for Remuneration of Public Office Bearers, decided yesterday to standardise the salaries of the country's more than 5000 headmen to pay a flat annual salary of R84125. It has been determined that traditional leaders' salaries will be increased by 28.4%.

Recent public sector wage negotiations agreed to a 7% increase for government workers.

"Provinces just don't have the money, so they are going to need to look at where they can take it from," said political analyst Nic Borain.

"If that money that is being used to buy the votes of traditional leaders is going to be at the expense of poverty relief, that's scandalous and an outrage."

Borain believes it is impossible not to consider that increasing the salaries of traditional leaders is politically motivated, especially ahead of local government elections next year.

"Zuma is trying to nail down the rural support, and the system of patronage is the way he is doing it, spreading this patronage to the chiefs."

Deep rural areas, where headmen and headwomen wield considerable power, are expected to remain the bedrock of ANC support in the local government elections.

If the ANC can replicate its deep rural success elsewhere in rural KwaZulu-Natal, it could once and for all defeat the IFP, which has always relied on traditional leaders' support in these areas.

Political analyst Protas Madlala said the timing of the salary increase for headmen and women was perfect for the local government elections.

"But one needs to ask where this bottomless pit of money is when the country's fiscus is already drained? Ultimately this salary increase is to buy votes, but at what cost? And that's my biggest worry," he said.

The Department of Traditional Affairs denied that the hefty salary increases for traditional leaders were designed to ensure loyalty to the ANC.

It was a sentiment shared by Induna Nkinobho Zulu from Ulundi, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, who said he viewed the salary increase for headmen and women as "a giant step forward" in recognising the role played by izinduna in their communities.

"It's something that should have been done a long time ago because traditional leadership is a very important institution. Izinduna, in particular, are the forefront of development in their communities," he said.

According to figures quoted by the director-general of traditional affairs, Charles Nwaila, in February, the Eastern Cape has 1193 headmen, the Northern Cape has 24, Limpopo has 1513, Mpumalanga 464, Gauteng four, KwaZulu-Natal 2039, North West 85 and the Free State 104. The Western Cape has none.

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Also read : Are traditional leaders still relevant in South Africa
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