The existence of monarchies matters more to some of you than you may think. If you pay your taxes (you do some anyway), chances are that you are contributing to the upkeep of a kingdom somewhere in South Africa.
Even though it is a show that I have never watched, Game of Thrones instantaneously springs to mind the minute that anyone mentions the word “monarchy.” South African monarchies however, remain a very distant thought.
A monarchy is any form of government led by a family or lineage as determined by varying ideas of “divinity” and even though it doesn’t feels like it at times, that is luckily not the state we live in. A monarch is the old-school version of the ultimate head of state. No one had more authority. Before we had Presidents, some of us had monarchs and though kings, queens and royal families still exist in South Africa (and in other places all over the world), very few still hold the same level of power.
In 2004, the Mbeki administration established a commission to determine the historical legitimacy of SA’s existing kingships. Most of which had come to power through the “involvement” of apartheid and colonial regimes. And in 2010, the Zuma administration announced that the South African government would stop recognizing 6 out of the 13 traditional kingships that existed at that time. From then onwards, these leaders would adopt the ambiguous term “principal traditional leaders” but would still derive their income from tax coffers.
To put this into detailed perspective; South Africa currently has 10 recognized kings, one of the most recognizable being King Goodwill Zwelethini. According to Prego Govendor of Times Live, the king was allocated a whopping R51.3 million for his “upkeep” for the current financial year. Just because he is a king! A symbolic figure-head really… The same actually applies to the Queen of England, who gets an allowance amounting to millions for her upkeep and to fund her participation in “official matters.”
With that in mind, whether you know about it or you do not think about it at all, is it something that you should (indirectly) be paying for? Come to think of it, are monarchies even relevant in 2014? Relevant enough to deserve your money?
The official body that represents traditional leaders in South Africa (CONTRALESA) is upset about the fact that they don’t think traditional leaders get paid enough. Yes, they do not get as much as King Goodwill but they still get paid just for being traditional leaders. The money for their salaries comes from YOUR taxes. All this fuss is as a result of the fact that CONTRALESA views traditional leaders as equal to government officials and as such, they feel that they should earn as much as government officials do.
Govt officials earn: +/- R 2.5 M p/a (R200000 p/m)
Traditional leaders earn: +/- R 188 424 p/a (R 15000 p/m)
Headmen earn: +/- R 79 364 p/a (R6000 p/m)
CONTRALESA general secretary Xolile Ndevu added that headmen are considered the “first layer of traditional government” and because this, such salaries are a disgrace. He argues that they deserve more but in my opinion, for that to happen, they would have to highlight exactly what it is that they do in order to justify a pay raise funded by tax reserves.
Despite its faults, the relevance of a democratic government is apparent. The relevance of monarchies however, is still a grey area. I call it a grey area because I have never resided in any of our existing kingdoms so I cannot just dismiss whatever it is that they do.
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