Part 3.2 – Challenges of land management: a laboratory of normative pluralism / The culture of collectivism on land acquisition and administration modernity challenges and legitimization of Power

Book : Parcours international de débat et propositions sur la gouvernance, International Meeting Process for debate and proposals on governance

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By Dr. Nditsheni Emmanuel Tshikwatamba

University of Limpopo

This paper interrogates the African culture of collectivism on land acquisition and administration as well as the legitimization of power. The challenges of modernity are denoted for comparative reasons. The paper moves from the premise that collectivism has been and is still a way of living in African culture and this cultural orientation impacts on every aspect of the African people including the land. The land question has always been contested in Africa since the dawn of colonialism and the paper narrates the dynamics involved. Contemporary African practices that do not conform to the collectivist cultural orientation in question are contaminated by various historical and inter mixture of variables. The traditional system of governance and management through chieftainship is commendable for the stability it created from one generation to the other. It is contended that the traditional system administered the land question more effectively than modern and democratic governments.


Collectivism, also known as the communitarian approach to land management, has been an African practice for decades. The disappearance of collective management of land ownership and distribution is traceable to the dawn of colonialism and imperialistic conquest of the traditional African system of governance. The introduction of modern governance also contributed of the disappearance of collectivism on the land question. In the centre of the collectivism orientation, the traditional system of governance through chieftainship is prevalent. There are valuable lessons still to be learned from the traditional system of land governance and management. Maylam (1986:i) observes that African systems of governance are perceived as peripheral and belonging only outside the main theatre of modern economy, appearing rarely on the central stage and even then considered hindrances to the modern government system. In the case of traditional chieftainship, modern governments positioned the traditional system at the periphery and diluted its operations. To this end, modern governments are required to re-orientate their approaches and incorporate African philosophies in order to relate differently with Africa as a continent and Africans around the globe. A greater understanding and appreciation of African heritage and the transfer of collectivist knowledge of governance and management is required. (Mbigi, 1997: ix). The African renaissance should serve as a vehicle of advancing an understanding of African practices that have been compressed by western cultures and translate them meaningfully. The attestation of these sentiments are expressed by Normann et al (1996:1) in stating that human service practitioners are yet to find practice paradigms consistent with African practices, for example on land ownership and distribution. Undoubtedly, issues of appropriate, indigenous land management practices require extensive exploration. The promotion of collective governance and management of land issues is appropriately indigenous and is part of an African knowledge resource. The value question and perceptions play an important role when an African practice such as collective management is to be resuscitated. The argument is not about changing values or whether values do change or not, but the value judgment attached to this practice by Africans themselves.

Colonial-Modern Democratic Approaches

In the context of South Africa, the arrival of the Dutch in the 1650’s was responsible first and foremost for the dispossession of land of the indigenous people or the land in the custodianship of chieftainship. Buthelezi (1995:2) informs us that the history of European colonization is one of conquest, plunder and dispossession and exploitation of the indigenous African population. Dispossession was one typical tool of primitive land acquisition used by European colonizers of South Africa, which precipitated more than two centuries of anti-colonial wars by the African people and their chieftainship leadership in défense of land and political independence. It is not only the land that was taken from the indigenous population but also livestock i.e. cattle, sheep and goats. The land could not have been disposed of excluding the livestock, because it is the grazing field for these animal beings. Van Aswegen (1990:22) informs us that when the Dutch East Indian Company (DEIC) established a refreshment station in the Cape South Africa, they were already aware of the large indigenous cattle herds. The land was not only taken, but privatized in the hands of the colonial elites who thereafter constructed modern defensive system against victims of land dispossession. Reconnaissance expeditions of 1884 and 1835 reported that the African land was fertile and largely uninhabited in that much of the interior was depopulated by a series of wars among African chiefdoms in the Southern African region. The truth of these reports, many of them from missionaries, has been argued at length by historians. The depopulation theory as advanced by missionaries is arguably unreliable and is exaggerated in every account. The historical inaccuracies, that tend to strengthen the trekkers’ claim that the land which they occupied was uninhabited and belonged to no one, are false from the African perspective. (Readers Digest Association of South Africa, 1992: 114). The contentious issue is not whether the land was occupied or not but that the disposed land belonged to indigenous African people. The substantial argument has always been that colonizers of Africa did not come from Europe with land but with machine guns that were used to inspire terror in the African population.

By the end of the 19th century, nine-tenths of the African territory had been subjected to complete imperialistic control. The Southern Nguni’s who had borne the brunt of colonial wars were dispossessed of their land resources and silenced for good. The Zulus were finally conquered by British imperialists in 1887. In the North, the Pedi’s and the Venda’s fought and resisted both the British and the Boer colonial forces as the struggle intensified before succumbing to the military superior colonists. The Southern Sotho’s fought gallantly for their land before their incorporation into the British protectorate. Beyond the Limpopo, the Matebele and the Shona were vanquished in 1886. Importantly, colonial invaders waged these wars in order to take the land from the indigenous people and to consolidate territorial control. Africans fought back in defense of their land under chieftainship with little success due to less sophisticated machinery as compared to the ones used by their colonial counterpart. The land dispossession strategy applied by colonial regimes followed the same pattern in all African states that were colonized. The Zimbabwean war of liberation (1965-1979) for example was inspired by the land question. The South African struggle was underlined by urban demands, mostly couched in terms of “freedom”. But in both countries, the overwhelming population majorities are land dispossessed as a result of settler colonial conquest. South Africa does not have liberation war veterans in the Zimbabwean sense, but it has a rural landless populace which is mobilized around the pace and direction of land reform. South Africa’s land politics are also shaped by the white land-owners’ class violence against farm workers and labour tenants (Mngxitama, 2000:7).

The colonial regime’s dispossession approach was legislated for and statutory frameworks were instituted to legalize the dispossession approach. The Natives’ Land of 1913 was an Act by the South African legislature aimed at regulating the acquisition of land by “natives”. The Act formed an important part of the colonial system to legalize the dispossession approach. The Act created a system of land tenure that legally deprived the majority of South Africa’s inhabitants of the right to own land and this had major socio-economic repercussions. The effects of the Land Act of 1913 are still visible in a democratic South Africa, needless to mention that the South African experience of land dispossession is an African experience. In an effort to completely destroy the indigenous traditional structures that had been built up in the African society, and to impose imperialism with an unnerving totality, the colonialists were not satisfied merely with holding a people in their grip and emptying the Native’s indigenous resources of all form and content (Biko, 1978: 25), they turned to privatization of land after dispossession. References can be made to notices in colonial farms denoting that “trespassers will be prosecuted”. The rightful owners of the land were later regarded as trespassers as an additional security measure of self-defense on the part of colonial regimes.

The traditional leaders or the chieftainship system of governance was not only dispossessed of land by colonial governments, but by the introduction of modern governments as well. Modern governments shifted from traditional value-laden practices of land acquisition and administration and follow colonial patterns. It can be interpreted that traditional leadership and indigenous people suffered a double blow on land issues in that their land was disposed of firstly by colonial regime and secondly by modern governments. The administrative patterns that have developed in Africa since independence, for all their variations, possess certain features common to their colonial masters. The rules of the political game that these colonial regimes devised usually attained a modicum of coherence, even if they generally diverged from rational–legal organizational precepts. The decision-making procedures of the colonial regimes tended to be restrictive to African values if not insular, and so does modern governance. Political centres in Africa have, therefore, coalesced around differently designed pacts of domination established by relatively small colonial groups. The fact that colonialism became the domestic source of land policies does not imply that they were necessarily the strong foci of activity. Their record in this regard has depended on how management of social relations has been imposed on African people. Although in other African countries, colonialism diminished decades ago, the on-going effects on the minds of the people are tremendous (Chazan, et al, 1992:168-1), both on modern and democratic governance.

The democratic government in South Africa, however, acknowledged the traditional system of land governance (interpretatively) where applicable, thereby establishing the House of the Traditional Leaders. Although the various Houses of Traditional Leaders are provincially established, their mandates are not exclusively land based in that other non-land related issues could be handled through this system (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa). Democratic governments are modern governments as well but the emphasis is in their democratic formation making them different from non-democratic modern governments. The recognition of traditional leaders in the constitution in terms of section 211 (1) is a commendable dispensation; a traditional authority that observes a system of customary law is expected to function subject to applicable legislation of customary law. The courts are also expected to apply customary law when such a law is applicable, subject to the Constitution. The role of traditional leadership is determined by national legislation. With these constitutional provisions, traditional leaders may exercise their original role pertaining to land administration through further evolution, if not repetitive evolution.

Collectivisms and Communal land

The core of the African indigenous community was for example the family and it was apparently the custom of the original people of South Africa to form larger family units by integrating married male children patrilinearly with parents. One of the attributes of the indigenous African community’s organisational arrangement was the fusion of the family units to form a clan. From the Dutch sources of the 17th and the 18th centuries, as well as the anthropological studies about the indigenous African communities, it is clear that the clan played an extremely important role in African history. Each clan had its own organisation, with a captain as the head to provide guidance to the community. A tendency existed for the indigenous Africans to form larger social and political ethnic groups by joining several clans under a chiefdom who was accepted by all as a leader. The leader of such an ethnic group probably acquired his position of authority by virtue of the fact that he was the head of a powerful family and also on the basis of the family relationship with the clans that join the ethnic group. From this scenario of family cohesion, clan, larger clan and community, the culture of collectivism and the communitarian approach of land ownership developed with chieftainship providing leadership. The chieftainship was/is hereditary and the elder son was/is the successor after the death of his father and this was legitimately accepted (Van Aswegen,1990: 22). In view of the fact that the community consisted of the larger clan from the clan that emanated from the family, Oosthuizen (1985:92) contends that collective land management (own emphasis) contended herein is founded upon the unique understanding that the isolation of man from the land of his birth is anomalous. It manifests itself among African expression(s) such as: “the fact that I am I (referring to chiefs and their prefects) and not the other ;( referring to subjects) and that the other is another and not me (referring to both the chiefs and the subjects) is not acceptable, I am only because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.” In this context, the land is not owned by chiefs or traditional leaders, but chiefs are merely custodians of land on behalf of their people due to the collectivism approach. It is not about “them” as traditional leaders, but about their people. Their people are not the “others” but part of themselves. Their people and “them” as traditional leaders are in a state of unison, and land disputes are prevented by the collectivism approach of living that forms part of their cultural orientation. Collectivism is closely related to the theoretical framework of the Moral Code of the Builder of Communisms (1961: 2) that articulates that “one is for all and all is for one”, it thereby further promotes mutual assistance, human relations and respect, i.e., “man is to man a friend and a brother or a sister”. In this vein, Grant (1957:47) refers to collectivism as any philosophy or system that considers any kind of group such as class, nation, race, and society or state, as more important than individuals.

Collective management can therefore be defined as an African value-laden practice of land ownership, in this case by the collective body of chieftainship or clan or extended family arrangement for the benefit of all within the spirit of Ubuntu. Papp (1984:460) reckons, in attestation of what is mentioned above, that the collective body can be a tribe, a chieftainship, a clan, a village, and/or an extended family. It is the basis for a social contract that stems from, but transcends, the narrow confines of the nuclear family to the extended kinship network of the community. The administration of land is placed within the chieftainship jurisdiction not from an ownership perspective but from a custodian perspective. The question of ownership and custodianship is essential in the context of the argument advanced. Colonial and modern governments owned the land privately, but traditional leaders owned the land on behalf of the people. This is based on the Ubuntu concept. There is no equivalent term in the English literature that closely translates the concept of Ubuntu, although every African ethnic grouping refers to this notion (Tshikwatamba, 2002:14)). According to Christie et al (1994:113), the concept of Ubuntu is uniquely African and central to the Afrocentric management approach. The South African Department of Education (2001:15-16) denotes that Ubuntu is rather a human dignity and further endorses that it has a particularly important place in the African value system and that it emanates from African mores. Ubuntu entails that an individual who is part of the collective should be afforded unconditional respect and right to be heard, irrespective of his/her social status. In the context of the land issue, a new arrival in the jurisdictional area of the chieftainship could be granted a portion of the land to plough and cultivate it. Where necessary, some stocks could also be provided to feed the family of the new arrival in the area as a part of Ubuntu form of hospitality. In this case, the land is not sold but given for cultivation. The fact that it is not sold implies that it is not owned but is held on according to the custodian principle. Mbigi (1997:2) literally translates Ubuntu as collective personhood and morality. In this vein, the disjunction of collective management from Ubuntu concerning land ownership compromises its originality as both collective management and Ubuntu, provide images of supportiveness, cooperation and solidarity. These principles were not manifested during the colonial reign and modern government did not fully incorporate them either. Collective management is not synonymous to the group model of formal settlement on specific land, as recently manifested through body corporate ownership of land in modern established villages. Dye (1978: 23) contends that the exposition of the group model is that the elite owners of land play an important role in the success of the model. In a collective management setting, harmonious relations of individuals are bonded by Ubuntu, and land ownership is communitarian.

The implications of African collectivism and communal land practices are that in a collective management environment, members of the community are connected through chains of humanity and do operate as a family of a specific community in a specific land demarcation. In essence, it implies that the “We” prevails over the “I” on land administration. Should the “I” happen to carry out a specific engagement without the mandate of the “We”, the “I” accounts to the collective. The friction of “them” and “us” on land administration is non-existent as both “them” and “us” are incorporated into “all of us” that forms part of the collective. If “them” exists, that should be another part of the collective in their unique way of conducting land administration, and can’t be interpreted as disintegration from this collective body. Kreitner and Kinicki ( 2001: 112) articulate that individualistic cultures are attributed of “I” and “me” while collectivist cultures are attributed of “we” and “us”. The unitary South African democratic dispensation circumscribed South Africa into nine provinces as an exemplary point of reference. This circumscription established the provincial collective entities respectively. This arrangement differs from the Land Act of 1913 that racially balkanised the land question on a racial basis. In the provincial dispensation, the democratic government incorporated the land issue in its approach within fairness and justice principles. There is a visible movement from isolation to integration, and this culminated into the integration of the traditional system of leadership into local government dispensation. During the transitional phase of local authority, the traditional leaders boasted of their land ownership rights of a custodian nature in relation to the elected local political office bearers. The elected local political office bearers boasted of their legitimate state of existence, which could provide resources for local economic development in the chieftainship land. With these contestational approaches, integration became necessary to bring about developments within the land owned by traditional leaders; thus the legitimacy question on land questions is achieved through compromises, consolidation and synthesis.

In colonial and modern governance, potential conflicts are inevitable on land issues as they have been in the past. Barber and Barratt (1990:3) bring the analogy of the South African apartheid framework that separated the country into homelands. It can be interpreted that apartheid promoted private ownership of land attributed by conflictual relations between those who belong to the “central land” and “peripheral land”. Those who belong to the peripheral land conflicted against the immediate political authority imposed on them, while those in the central land were pressurized by different forces to bring about change. According to Papp (1984:460), western conceptions have little relevance to African cultures. The argument advanced in this paper is that the promotion of collective management provides value-adding lessons adaptable to a modern system of land ownership.

Modern Government’s Land Related Challenges

There are tremendous challenges of modern land acquisition and administration which have become inherent and unavoidable to modern governments. Informal settlements are, for example, negative results of modern administration of land. Historical underpinnings demonstrate no archaeological evidence of informal settlements where the traditional system of land acquisition and administration prevailed. Informal settlements persist despite modern government’s targeted provision of low cost housing. Slow delivery on the new government’s subsidized low cost housing is often put forward as the cause of informal settlement. Informal settlement, even if it is based on illegal occupation of land is recognized as an affordable and more immediate accessible solution to the housing deficit. (Huchzermeyer & Karam, 2006:19). It is fundamentally contended, however, that slow delivery of low cost housing is not the cause of housing deficits, but the manner in which the land question is administered by modern and democratic governments. Furthermore, it is argued that during the traditional system of land acquisition and administration and where the system still prevails, informal settlement did not and does not exists due to effectiveness of the traditional system of land acquisition and administration through the custodianship system of chieftainship. There is no such thing as illegal occupation of the land by the local people under the chieftainship system of land acquisition and administration. The traditional approach to land ownership provides sustainable benefits, conversely to modern governments approach. The benefits in question are not without some degree of limited challenges, but comparatively with modern governments, sustainable benefits are maximized under the traditional system more than in modern governments. The table below depicts the challenges and benefits as contended:

Table 5.1 : Modern Governments Challenges and Benefits
Modernity ChallengesBenefits of Traditional Land Ownership
Control of land cascades from the topControl of land shared
The authoritative figure is accountableAccountability shared
Leadership is based on power and positionTraditional Leader is based on nurturing and community support
Dependability and rigidity is emphasized on land ownershipTraditional system of land ownership continuously emphasizes flexibility
Sales and trade offs are exclusive means of land ownershipMultiple access to land are created
Lack of sustainable approach for empowermentTraditional leadership assumes creative and innovative approach to empowerment
Assumes a stable land ownership environmentAssumes constant change for adaptation

(Adapted from the Pacific Institute, 1988:2000)

Figure 5.1 demonstrates the challenges of modernity on land acquisition and administration. Conversely, the benefits of traditional ownership are also indicated for comparison reasons. The Modernity approach demonstrates vertical dimensions (perpendicular to the horizon) of land acquisition and administration, while the traditional system demonstrates the horizontal emphasis. The greater challenges of modern governments are that related conflicts and other challenges are adjudicated from the top hierarchical corridors of power in that only the designated authority is accountable due to lack of shared accountability associated with traditional methods of land acquisition and administration. According to Lever (1979: 3), modern governments (own emphasis) can best be understood as hierarchically structured. Shared accountability associated with the traditional system is sustained through the decentralization strategy of chieftainship prefects (Indunas), thus accountability is not centralized but shared across and within the layers of community interactions. Although Venter (1989:10) informed us that blacks in rural areas form a traditional relationship under a local tribal chief and have an extended hierarchy of tribal chieftainship; the correct reference should be ethnic chieftainship rather than tribal chieftainship. In addition, the practice does not translate into hierarchy of, but collectivism of the traditional leadership. The white counterparts in urban areas and in designated farms jurisdictions have no exposure to the traditional system of chieftainship and their approach to the system is abstract and academic. In modern governments, one’s primary sense of responsibility and loyalty is to the line of command as charted in the top structure of governance and management. In the context of the traditional system of governance, the sense of responsibility and loyalty is to the community itself, thus enhancing collectivisms and a communitarian approach to land acquisition and administration. Dependability and rigidity is common, thus being a major challenge of modern governments in land ownership attributed of sales of land and trade off as exclusive method of land redistribution. Multiple accesses to land are created through the traditional system of governance and administration and access goes beyond sales through pricing. The traditional system of land acquisition and administration does creatively provide access to land at no cost or at the lowest costs rather than at exorbitant costs ssociated with modern governments. The land redistribution through the traditional system of chieftainship provides larger portions of land than modern governments provides because the traditional system provides the land to accommodate subsistence farming for self-sustenance. Modern governments’ approach to land acquisition and administration lacks sustenance for self- empowerment. Where the land is provided at no cost, the custodianship principle prevails. Where the custodianship principle prevails, compensation of land can be made by the recipient of land after many years, when the recipient is able to make payments.

The question of payments should be understood contextually, since it is not payment in the traditional sense involving finances, but it is more of a contribution to the custodianship system to sustain the system for the benefits of others and all within the communitarian approach. The traditional system of chieftainship on land acquisition and administration mobilizes itself without the involvement of financial institutions. Modern governments collaborate closely with financial institutions, making the land more exorbitant and not easily accessed, culminating in informal settlements.

Attributes of Collective Management of Land Ownership

The below depicted Figure 5.1 shows the Emmanditsh Collective Management Model of land ownership, an epistemological device with attributes that contribute to an accountable, transparent, effective and efficient land administration and ownership. The model is interactive and conscious of the need for collective efforts in land ownership through the traditional system inherited over times and ages.

Figure 5.1 : Emmanditsh Collective Management Model on Land Ownership

From this model, the traditional system creates and adopts co-ownership of land, co-advocacy on land issues, co-authority on land distribution, co-responsibility on land administration, co-access of all, co-accountability of the traditional chieftainship with chief prefects as an attribute of collective land management and administration. Co-leadership of chieftainship with the local people provides reinforcement as endorsed by the establishment of chieftaincy prefects (Indunas) across the community. Co-leadership promotes objective versus subjective responsibility and accountability. The subjectivity question is inevitable where modern and post-modern governments reign. In order to promote these attributes, other attributes such as co-advocacy of land and co-access to land information are necessary to achieve empowerment objectives. The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language-Encyclopaedic Edition explains that the prefix “co-” elaborates joint efforts, something that is carried out in the efforts of togetherness. Collective land management and ownership therefore provide synergetic relations between the community and traditional leadership. It can be deduced from this model that collectivism tends to share common goals and exercise stronger group identity, more group accountability and more communication. As argued above, the group identity is however dissimilar from the modern government group model as contended above. Blanchard (1982:109- 110) promotes the question of successful and effective leadership, whether it is traditional or democratic leadership. It is contended that collective traditional management provides effective co-leadership that brings success to land acquisition and administration. To this end, under collective management, successful co-leadership is more of an end, while effective core leadership is the means. Land related conflicts within the community are addressed by chieftainship prefects (Indunas) rather than adjudicated from the top. The style of interaction is directed towards land accomplishment rather than command, while shedding of responsibility is emphasized. (Burns and Stalker, 1961:13).

Legitimacy Question

The system of chieftainship leadership is hereditary and the leaders in question are regarded as born leaders and are revered as such. The land question as well has always been hereditary in certain modern and traditional communities in that it would be inherited from one generation to the other, being passed over from one to the next generation. Modern governments tend to endorse the notion that any system of governance that is not elected is illegitimate. The traditional theories of leadership endorse the notion that leaders are born in certain circumstances and communities and not necessarily made or elected. The theory in question, also known as the “great person theory” of leadership implies that some individuals are born with certain traits that allow them to emerge out of any situation or period of history to become leaders. The argument evolved into what is contemporarily known as the trait theory of leadership. The trait approach is concerned mainly with identifying the personality traits of a leader, of a chieftainship leadership in this case. With considerable amount of dissatisfaction with the “great person theory” and the fact that leaders are born, researchers switched their emphasis from the individual leader to the group that is being led. In addition to the leader and the group, the situation began to receive increased attention in leadership theory. The situation approach was initially called Zeitgeist, a German word for “spirit of the time” (Luthans, 2002:579). With these theoretical frameworks, the traditional system of governance and management through chieftainship and its impacts on land acquisition and administration is undoubtedly legitimate. In the context of the “group and the “led” emphasis approach, shifting from traditional leaders as individuals to the group that is being led, the chieftainship traditional system of leadership continues to remain legitimate in that the people living under the contended system of governance do at the most not stage revolutionary and protest marches against the system seeking for alternative democratic or modern system of governance. In respect to land acquisition and administration, the traditional systems of governance, analysed from the perspectives of the communities that are being led, have comparatively governed and managed the land issue to the satisfaction of various formations within the community and the community in large. From the formal to informal settlement, it is contended that modern and democratic governments are often protested against more than occurs in the chieftainship traditional system of governance and management. Du Pisani (2000:62) informs us that with the formation of black political parties at the beginning of the 1960’s in Namibia, the politics of resistance and protest (own emphasis) became elevated to a higher place. The situational approach and analysis endorses the legitimacy question of chieftainship leadership in that it is in the “spirit of the time” (Zeitgeist), of the historical times immemorial, when the chieftainship leadership system prevailed before colonial and imperial conquest of indigenous land, and still prevails in contemporary times. With these arguments, the chieftainship traditional system of governance is legitimate and justifiable.

The traditional leadership system is legitimate in that traditional born leaders are leaders in the excellent meaning of leadership, sounded by the international and global renowned theories of leadership as contended. Tradition is the basis for legitimacy in traditional leadership and it comprises the whole range of inherited cultures and ways of life; a people’s history, moral, and social values, and the traditional institutions which survive to serve cultural values. Traditional leaders derive their power from custom and not so much from tradition. Custom and not tradition serves as the basis for traditional leadership and its hereditary system. Although customs are closely intertwined with tradition, they are generally more flexible than tradition and more useful in facilitating change. Tradition is the basis for legitimacy in traditional leadership.Custom therefore is a source of legitimacy and it is recorded that there is no distinction between invented and or real customs. Traditional Leaders are not traditional leaders in the true sense of the word, but are Customary Leaders. In contemporary societies, there is little tradition about the traditional leaders (Keulder (2000:152). For this reason, it is easier to make a distinction between invented tradition, traditions that are claimed to have existed since time immemorial, yet historical evidences proving the opposite and “traditional traditions” (own emphasis), that are cited by Gerth and Mills, (1946: 78) from the work of Max Weber as the authority of the eternal yesterday, i.e. of the mores sanctified through the unimaginably ancient recognition and habitual orientation to conform.

The legitimacy of chieftainship traditional system of governance and management is not only premised on the abovementioned emphasis, but also on how power has been and is exercised in these institutions, specifically on land acquisition and administration. The nature and scope of power, its functions and acceptability by modern governments in relation to the chieftainship traditional system of governance and management, particularly in the land question, requires extensive analysis. In the main, personal power in African communities and the traditional system bubbles up from the bottom and is bestowed upon the leader through the will of the people, thus endorsing the legitimacy question based on the group of people led by the leadership. Conversely, in modern and post-modern societies, power is hierarchically positioned. This reflects material power vis-à-vis other forms of power in the organization that promotes disequilibrium in social relationships (Koopman, 1994:70). From the work of Wouter (1995: 23), forms of power that could be associated with collective management of land acquisition and administration (own emphasis) are: power-with, which leads to partnership, equality, collaboration, and inclusivity culminating if not influenced by the collectivist culture as contended; power-for, which leads to empowerment and development of human capacity as contended within the ambit of custodianship of the land; power-to-be, which is the personal basis for power that permits the creation of personal meanings, values and dignity; power-within, which is the inner energy that makes African communities appreciate their collectivized chieftainship traditional system of land acquisition and administration, power to-which is the creative and spiritual energy that enables African communities to act when the land is invaded as it has been during colonial era. It is provided that the land removed from indigenous communities was taken while Africans, as indigenous owners of the land, were waging battles to defend the land. Modern government experienced these legitimate power dynamics to be the losses of power, in view of the hierarchical positions based method of operation (Harvard Business Review, 1991:31). If positively perceived, the reality counteracts the argument in that the backward shift from modern to the chieftainship traditional system of governance and management could legitimize, and offers greater empowerment of land acquisition and administration. It could be interpreted that chieftainship traditional system of governance and administration produces depersonalization of orders to eliminate overbearing power.

Wouters (1993:23), further states that power over, power under, power against symbolize the detrimental usage of power associated with colonial, modern and some democratic governments in land acquisition and administration. These dynamics of power were manifested through confrontations, forceful removals, and discriminatory Acts in the case of previous colonial Apartheid South Africa, among other harmful strategies to realize land conquest. The situation of Zimbabwe and the land question requires to be contextualized within the ambit of the colonial history of that country. Forceful removal of white farmers in occupied land is however non-African, and this practice resembles colonial patterns, and it renders the government action(s) to be illegitimate. It cannot be contended that only government action(s) is illegitimate and that the government itself is legitimate, illegitimate government action(s) illegitimises the government as well. Redistribution of land through legislative measures would be less offensive to humanity than the situation is in Zimbabwe. The chieftainship system of governance and management is not known for forceful removals but redistribution of land as a hereditary practice to advance the course of humanity. The chieftainship traditional system of governance in relation to the land issues is not known for applying power dynamics illegitimately and harmfully. Where power over and against prevail in the land question, members of the community experience the under dimension of power, while those who are exercising power experience the over dimension. It is contended that the question of orders; and the feeling of being under the power of someone, of subordination, of servility and of being at the will of someone has negative effects such as fear of, compliance with, survival within and loss of the real self. It is all right to work with someone. With is a good preposition not because it encompasses collective management practices but because it provides functional unity. Receiving of orders from the situation involves the “with” preposition. Community citizens who desire to work under the environment where orders are issued and received relinquish a degree of their responsibilities. Taking of responsibility, each according to his capacity and function as a whole is the most vital aspect of viable community interaction (Follet, 1992:71-72). It can be deduced that what Denhardt (1991: 353) refers to as punishment or coercive power (the ability to deliver a painful or punishing outcome to others and hence control them by their desire to escape punishment), forms part of the over and under dimensions. The advantageous usage of power represents the rewarding power that is the ability to satisfy the needs of others. This is related to the view of power as an instrument for empowerment. Hofstede (1985:348) factors the question of power distance, the extent to which community accepts power in the group dynamics. The constructs tend to be identified with the willingness of the less powerful community members to accept their lower status and authority roles vis-à-vis the more powerful members of the society. The members of the high power distance cultures are more likely to be accepting of, and comfortable with, structured power relations than are members of low power distant cultures.


Collective governance and management do not undermine the role leadership plays in the land issue, rather it shapes it positively within the beneficial usage of power. It is concluded that valuable lessons can be learnt from this traditional system of governance and management. Comparative analysis between modern and traditional system of management and governance on the land issues suggests the advantages and disadvantages of these management scenarios. The advantages of collective land management are however highly promoted in this work against western and modern practice.

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