Managing stakeholders in a traditional African setting

Traditional practices in the Royal Bafokeng Nation of South Africa offer new insights into stakeholder management.


This article makes a case for how stakeholder relationships could be managed in an African manner using practices from the Bafokeng (“People of the Dew”), whose kingdom, the Royal Bafokeng Nation (RNB) is located in the North West province of South Africa.

They survived the negative effects of colonialism and apartheid and have emerged into the 21st century with a brighter future as the owners of vast mineral-rich land holdings (1,400 sq km as at 2015). The land they own and occupy was bought communally through German missionaries in the 1800s at a time when black people were not allowed to buy land in South Africa. Their story qualifies as among the oldest African investment cases around land acquisition.

The RBN is a traditional monarchical community. Its governance structures include the supreme council and elected traditional councillors, with the entire structure chaired by Kgosi (King) Leruo Molotlegi. Members of a kgotla (clan – plural makgotla) meet monthly to share information and resolve disputes.

Each kgotla is led by a traditional headman known as a kgosana (plural dikgosana), who passes information from the kgotla to the supreme council and the RBN Administration (RBA) and back again. Most makgotla are attended by 50 to 100 participants.

The RBA is responsible for service delivery in the community, while the supreme council makes decisions on how budgets, social development activities and community services are prioritised, including infrastructure projects, the building of schools and the provision of healthcare services.

Critical decisions, including those pertaining to land, are made through a structure called kgotha kgothe. The RBN, through the Royal Bafokeng Nation Development Trust (RBNDT), had an annual spend of more than R600m as at end 2015 for these programmes, and spent over R5.6bn between 2003 and 2012 alone on service delivery to its community.

Each year, the RBNDT gives an account to the community through kgotha kgothe and supreme council structures on the state of financial affairs of the nation, and the annual budget is also voted on through these structures.

The detail and governance around critical matters such as financial management and land allocation and how these are managed in the community qualifies the RBN as a case worth studying in order to better understand stakeholder management in African traditional settings. Within the plethora of stakeholder management literature, there is no clear documented evidence that connects Western theoretical stakeholder management approaches to daily practice in a traditional setting like the RBN.

Influence of headmen

Dikgosana and leaders of makgotla are represented at every stage of influence within the RNB community. Influence in traditional communities is a very important thing.

It speaks to decision-making and followership and ensuring the support of the masses. The influence that dikgosana have as leaders of makgotla is unrivalled and highlights the knock-on effect on how that influence impacts decision-making within the larger community.

With dikgosana such an important part of stakeholder management, their training, development and capacitation should be a priority in the RBN.

Dr Siza Majola is Group Human Resources Executive at ADvTECH Group and a 2008 Tutu Fellow

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