Democracy Compromised
Chiefs and the politics of the land in South Africa

Lungisile Ntsebeza

238mm x 159mm
R 240.00
ISBN: 0-7969-2130-X
April 2006


Democracy Compromised puts the spotlight on traditional authorities and addresses two main issues: first, how despite their role in the apartheid state, traditional authorities not only survived, but have won unprecedented powers of rural governance in South Africa’s democracy, and second, how they derive their authority. In this original and compelling study, Lungisile Ntsebeza carefully details the fascinating history of the chieftaincy in the Xhalanga area of the Eastern Cape. He shows how traditional authorities have been dependent on the support of the state since the advent of colonialism and how deeply traditional structures have been contested. Light is shed on the unexpected renaissance of these authorities under ANC rule and the role of traditional leaders in the process of land allocation is clearly explained.

Written by one of the leading scholars on the South African land reform programme and democratisation in rural South Africa, this book will be of particular interest to academics, researchers, students, activists and policy makers.

A co-publication with Brill Academic Publishers (ISBN 9-0041-4482-X)


Traditional authorities, democracy and the land question: Some conceptual and theoretical considerations
The Xhalanga district and its people
The land question and local governance in Xhalanga 1883-1924
Rural local governance in Xhalanga in the era of the District Council: The struggle continues
Tribal authorities and the revival of chieftainship in Xhalanga
‘Tshisa, tshisa’ (Burn, burn): The struggle against tribal authorities intensifies
The era of Bantu Authorities in the Xhalanga district: A decentralized despotism?
Democracy compromised: post-1994 retribalisation


‘A very rich manuscript, based on thorough research, archives, interviews, impressively wide reading and original insights.’ Peter Geschiere, Professor of African Anthropology, Leiden University

‘The position taken up by Ntsebeza is important and will certainly make this work something of a landmark. The local history at its core is a valuable piece of scholarship’
Bill Freund, Senior Professor of Economic History, University of KwaZulu-Natal

‘Based on superb historical scholarship, this book is essential to understanding the resurgence of traditional authorities in the post-apartheid era. In addition, it provides vivid new insights into past and present struggles over land.’
Gillian Hart, Professor of Geography, University of California at Berkeley

About the Author/s

Dr Lungisile Ntsebeza is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. Since 1995 he has focused on the South African land reform programme and democratization in rural South Africa.