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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Mbeki angers kings with election date
President Mbeki at parliament
Mbeki says he will examine traditional chiefs' demands
By Greg Barrow in Johannesburg

South Africans finally know that they will be going to the polls for local elections this year.

The government has announced that it will hold local elections on 5 December.

The elections will be seen as a test of the popularity of President Thabo Mbeki who took over from Nelson Mandela last year.

The government had been trying to announce the date for several weeks but it delayed naming a day until it had resolved an acrimonious dispute with traditional leaders.

Boundary dispute

President Mbeki
The vote will be a test of Mbeki's popularity
Kings, queens and chiefs from across the country objected to the demarcation of new municipal boundaries ahead of the vote.

They say the new boundaries will increase the control of urban municipalities and undermine the authority of the traditional leaders in remote rural areas.

President Mbeki has promised to examine the demands of the traditional leaders and to try to ensure that their fears of losing influence in rural politics are allayed.

Old order

The chiefs, the kings and queens have maintained law and order in rural areas since colonial times.

Even today, around a quarter of all black South Africans fall under the authority of traditional leaders.

Their dispute with the government has overshadowed other real issues ahead of the local elections.

The vote, the first since Mr Mbeki became president, will be a measure of how well the African National Congress has performed in fulfilling the promise it made of a better life for all in last year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

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See also:

27 Jul 00 | Africa
SA poverty gap remains
08 Jun 99 | South Africa elections
South Africa elections: Special report
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