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Traditional leader power overstated

A conventional wisdom in SA holds that traditional leaders are political king makers; that getting on the right side of the myriad regents, chiefs and headmen who hold together the complex traditional governance system in the countryside is a sure-fire route to electoral success.

This belief, which was undoubtedly correct in the past, was reinforced when SA’s democracy was a little more than a decade old. Then deputy president Jacob Zuma was fired and he began a low-key campaign to build his power base in the African National Congress (ANC) in preparation for an ultimately successful bid to unseat then president Thabo Mbeki.

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