Dr Ntokozo Makoba celebrating the moment with her family.

School of Management, IT and Governance academic Dr Ntokozo Makoba says immersing herself in indigenous values and engaging with the traditional leadership of Umgungundlovu’s rural community for her PhD research was a personally enriching experience.

As part of her study titled: Values Underlying Traditional Leadership and Governance and South African Constitutional Imperatives: A Case of Umgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, Makoba investigated the relationship between indigenous knowledge systems, indigenous value systems, traditional leadership, constitutional imperatives and sustainable livelihoods.

In her research work Makoba interacted with the Chiefs in the Umgungundlovu District Municipality – an experience she had dreaded as her perceptions about amakhosi were informed by literature which portrays them as cruel, tyrannical rulers who do not respect women.

‘My fears were unfounded.  For example, there was an incident when I was standing with a Chief in a parking lot in a police station where we were meeting,’ said Makoba.

‘The area was not tarred and a police car drove in at speed causing dust to rise.  The inkosi got angry and approached the driver asking him whether that was a way to drive in the presence of a lady and whether he had seen the dust settling on me. The policeman was very apologetic.  That was just one example of amakhosi being extremely welcoming and perfect gentlemen,’ said Makoba.

The study, supervised by Dr Fayth Ruffin, started when Ruffin enlisted Makoba’s help on research she was conducting on values inherent in indigenous knowledge systems of governance. It grew into exploratory multi-mode qualitative research driven by grounded theory strategies in five case studies in sub-areas of Umgungundlovu – eMathulini, eMhlangandlovu, eMpumuza, eNhlazuka and kwaManyavu – and created a strong bond between the two women.

‘I first met Ntokozo then a high-ranking government employee, in 2013 when she sat in one day on a master’s research methodology module that I teach,’ said Ruffin. ‘Ntokozo expressed an interest in leaving public service for a career in academia including earning a doctoral degree so I encouraged her to secure part-time lecturing positions in preparation for possible future lecturing opportunities at UKZN. She did that in 2014 and that same year she applied for a Developmental Lecturer position at the University and took up the post in January 2015.

‘She was credentialed shortly after submission of her thesis and promoted to lecturer with effect from April this year. I am so proud of all that she has achieved and I am grateful to be part of her inspirational journey,’ said Ruffin.

Makoba’s research has not only benefitted her but also created an opportunity for her to give back to the community of Umgungundlovu as she – along with fellow academics in the Discipline of Public Governance – facilitated a Conflict Resolution Workshop for Traditional Councils (TCs) last year.

The goal of the training workshop was to share conflict resolution strategies with the TCs and to inform them about what is expected of them in Traditional Leadership as well as the requirements of the Governance Framework Amendment Act of 2003 and ultimately the KwaZulu-Natal Traditional Leadership and Governance Bill of 2013.

‘I think that the research has interesting findings which are important not only for South Africa but for any country which is a constitutional democracy recognising traditional leadership,’ said Makoba.

‘The study has resulted in relationships being created with amakhosi and the people in these areas. Twenty-three years into democracy some of the rural areas are no better off than they were in the apartheid era. They are still grappling with the same problems, and that is a great injustice.  As a way of giving back to the community, I have been able to arrange business training as well as conduct training on conflict resolution for traditional councils.’

Words by: Thandiwe Jumo

Photograph by: Abhi Indrarajan