'Keen on tradition, or the money?'
THE nomination of candidates to serve on the 38-member Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders has attracted more than 700 candidates.
This emerged this week after the local government and traditional affairs department published a government gazette with the names of 711 candidates to contest Wednesday's elections.
The gazette was published after 240 traditional councils across the province held meetings to nominate their preferred candidates to serve on the ECHTL.
The record number of hopefuls comes despite there only being 32 ECHTL seats available while the remaining seats are representatives of the six kings in the province.
However, the perks associated with serving on the ECHTL are lucrative, with full time members such as the chairman earning no less than R541,191 per annum, with the deputy earning R463,803.
This excludes the subsidised vehicle with petrol card of no less than R9,000 per month for the chairman and R8000 for the deputy.
Part-time members receive allowances of no less than R808 for attending a sitting of the institution in addition to their monthly salaries as traditional leaders.
Traditional affairs MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said that the publication of the names signaled the readiness for administering the April 25 elections and he was confident the elections would run smoothly.
"We remain cautiously optimistic that all will go well as we gear towards the new term of the executive," he said.
But political analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni said the huge number of candidates was about accessing resources or was seen as an employment opportunity.
"It is for that reason that government positions have become such a contested issue because there are not many opportunities elsewhere.
"Whenever such positions come up you have a stampede of people," Fikeni aid.
He added that more than 700 were contesting for 32 seats showed fragmentation and collapse of consensus among traditional leaders.
"Contestation is in itself not a problem, but once you field 700 candidates it tells you that there is a lack consensus on who the leaders should be," Fikeni said
But Contralesa president Nkosi Phathekile Holomisa said the high number of nominees was not showing that traditional leaders were hungry for money and positions.
While agreeing that the benefits were attractive, Holomisa said there was general interest to serve on the ECHTL.
"It is natural therefore that there are people who are keen to go there.
"It cannot necessarily be just for the benefits, but to ensure commitment and that the institution plays its role," he said.
"Of course there is bound to be rivalry among those nominated as everyone would like to go to the house," Holomisa said.
He insisted that the number was not alarming because three traditional leaders were nominated from each of the province's 237 traditional councils
"Seven hundred and eleven is therefore not something, alarming but shows that traditional leaders want to play their role in the new democratic order," Holomisa added.