King Goodwill Zwelithini has lashed out at amakhosi who are also politicians.
Speaking at the start of a two-day Global Conference on Traditional Leadership at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban yesterday, Zwelithini challenged amakhosi to espouse traditional values like he did.
The conference is attended by amakhosi from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Botswana, New Zealand and Kenya.
"Traditional leadership is there to provide fundamental values as I have espoused. It is there to assist societies or governments maintain a common touch with everyone so that their inputs and potentials can be maximally utilised," he said.
Zwelithini said it is not advisable for traditional leaders to align themselves with political parties.
"I have observed that practice succeeds only to alienate other members of society who belong to different political parties.
"Traditional leadership is supposed to be an umbrella institution. It was there before the formation of political parties, and it will continue to exist long after the demise of political parties and governments.
"In no way do I suggest that a traditional leader should not exercise his or her universal franchise. All I am saying is that one must not endorse a certain party on behalf of the people over whom one has jurisdiction," he said.
Earlier, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Traditional Affairs Mike Mabuyakhulu, challenged delegates to pay more attention to gender representation in traditional and indigenous structures.
"Is the principle of the first born, or the exclusion of women in the succession debate, still relevant? Does it not rob us of the best individuals to lead, irrespective of first-born or female?"
He said traditional leaders also play a role as ambassadors of the people because at times they are responsible for inviting investors to their communities.
"The repercussions of succession disputes may mean that investors shy away from a particular area.
"We need to look at this challenge and devise ways of how succession disputes can be circumvented.
"It needs to be dealt with in a manner that does not upset communities and that does not lead to loss of lives.
"The institution needs to interrogate the process upon which suitable individuals are identified to lead traditional communities," Mabuyakhulu added.