Latest Research Findings: Records Management an area of neglect in Traditional Institutions of Leadership and Governance

An info-graphic that depicts Records Management challenges of Traditional Institutions in Ga Molepo, Limpopo province, South Africa.

By Mahlaga J Molepo

The effective management of records in Traditional Institutions of Leadership and Governance is necessary for accountability and transparency in a country that is battling with high levels of corruption in public institutions. The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (National Assembly of South Africa) oversees the Department of Corporative Governance and Traditional Affairs and other statutory entities. The Traditional Institutions of Leadership and Governance Framework Act (Act No. 41 of 2003, (Act No. 23 of 2009 as amended)) was passed into law in 2003. In 2009, the Act was amended and subsequently enacted in 2010. In 2017, there is a new bill that has been tabled for the amendment of certain sections of the Act. But little attention has been given to records management practices of traditional institutions in all the proposals to review the Act thus far.

Our study has found records management efforts by government only stops at government department level.  The latest research findings provide insight into the record management challenges faced by traditional institutions in the new democratic dispensation. The findings can be inferred to traditional institutions in other regions as well.

Related story: Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Bill: finalization (2003)

A cross sectional survey was used to investigate records management practices of traditional institutions in Ga Molepo, Limpopo province, South Africa. Time and financial constraints did not allow for a lengthy study. The 35 respondents who took part in the study are members of traditional councils. The overwhelming majority of the respondents were of royal descent, and mostly men who belong to a council under a headman/woman as a senior chief.

Records keeping in traditional institutions of Ga Molepo is undertaken by people referred to as ‘secretaries’.

Traditional councils in Ga Molepo use word of mouth for communication, notebooks and exercise books without carbon copies in the creation, storage and dissemination of records. These are very fragile tools of managing public records and result in the loss of significant records documenting heritage and the administration of rural communities.

Furthermore, respondents indicated there is lack of political will on the part of local government to encourage traditional institutions to upgrade from outdated records management ways to modern ones.

Read also: Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act ( RSA 2010)

While Chapter 2, Section 4 (Subsections 1-4) of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Act (RSA 2010) outlines the functions of traditional institutions, there is very little detail regarding standards and guidelines for record keeping in traditional institutions.

Related story: Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill (RSA 2017)

Our main conclusion of the study is that there is no real records management practices by both senior leadership and headmen/women in the traditional councils of Ga Molepo. Modern records management in traditional institutions is essential for the preservation of communal memory and service delivery at grassroots level. There is an urgent need to address the records management practices of traditional institutions in order to forge a culture of accountability, transparency and corporate governance. Effective records management with standards and guidelines, set with the advice of technocrats and information professionals, should be part of the plans to improve on the functions of traditional institutions in future amendment bills of the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Act (No. 23 of 2009). Both traditional institutions and government have a responsibility to make financial resources available for the implementation of a comprehensive records management program in traditional institutions.

 

Reference:

Molepo, M.J., and L.M. Cloete. 2017. “A Proposal for Improving Records Management Practices of Traditional Institutions in Ga Molepo South Africa.” Mousaion 35 (1). 46-67.

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