This paper discusses the characteristics, function and possible role of the tribal authorities or chieftainship (Bogosi) in rural development in South Africa. It gives a historic review of the chieftainship in terms of succession rules, the governing of the community and the eroding of the power of the chieftainship dating back to the time of colonisation. This influenced the trust between the chiefs and the community. The paper concludes that the chieftainship has an important role to play in participative rural development approaches on condition that the authority of the chieftainship is acknowledged by the government. A second condition is that the relationship between the chieftainship and the community must be rebuild.
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