The role of the induna

Last week the role of traditional leaders came under the spotlight when a story broke about a certain induna who was asking rent from men who were older than 18 and who were still staying at home. A complaint had been laid that the induna had abused his position. So what are the responsibilities of an induna, and what role does an induna play in modern society?

KZN MEC for COGTA, Nomusa Dube-Ncube
KZN MEC for COGTA, Nomusa Dube-Ncube

The isiZulu word induna translates as ‘advisor’, ‘leader’ or ‘headman’, and can also mean ‘mediator’, with izinduna traditionally acting as a bridge between the people and the king. In a military context  the term was also used collectively to refer to a group of elite soldiers operating under a specific induna. The title of induna was reserved for senior officials appointed by the king or chief, with izinduna sitting in the lower house of the Royal Parliament.

Post-1994 efforts have been made to incorporate the role of the induna into the formal structures of society through the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). In terms of regulations only 60% of izinduna are appointed by the inkosi (chief), with 40% being elected by the citizenry, thus aligning traditional leadership with South Africa’s democracy. Indunas are also paid from the public purse and receive monthly stipends. Last year, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, KZN MEC for COGTA, included remuneration of traditional leaders in her budget policy speech presentation for the 2017-18 financial year:

Since 1994 we have improved the remuneration of amakhosi [chiefs] and restored their dignity by making them public office bearers with benefits … we have now introduced the remuneration of izinduna in recognition of the role they play as catalysts for development in our communities.

Every week, the induna reports to an inkosi for that particular community so the inkosi can intervene on matters that escalate beyond the hand of induna. These are often matters that need resolution without having to spill over into criminal matters. You could compare some of the cases in the jurisdiction of induna to civil matters that are often addressed through court litigation for the affluent communities that have access to this costly legal facility.”

So while some people may argue that the role of the induna is not as important as it was in years gone by, it seems that the position is still very much integral to the running of South African local government, particularly for those people residing in the more rural areas.

Images courtesy of and

Leave a Comment