CONTRALESACongress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa
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Contralesa was launched in September 1987 in Johannesburg, claiming a membership of 38 chiefs and sub-chiefs from KwaNdebele and Moutse.
The involvement of SAYCO in the launch of Contralesa gave rise to the suspicion that this organization was being formed with the ultimate goal of abolishing the institution of chieftaincy.
While the formation of Contralesa as a partner in the liberation movement was shocking news to many activists inside South Africa, the ANC was quick to give its blessing.
As chief Mhlabunzima Maphumulo, a Zulu chief who was prominent in Contralesa, stated in 1990: `Once a chief has identified himself with us, then we know that the whole tribe or the majority of the people in that area are now with the progressive forces'.(20)
After the unbanning of the ANC in 1990, Contralesa's membership increased dramatically.
In 1990, Contralesa was regarded as an important rural partner in the ANC's strategy to `isolate De Klerk' by drawing all kinds of disparate forces into a broad alliance under ANC guidance.
The issue of customary law became a subject of fierce debate in the constitutional negotiations, pitting women's organizations against Contralesa. At one point the rural women's movement threatened to boycott the 1994 elections if the ANC would abandon its non-sexist principles in order to placate chiefs.