News / Africa

    S. Africa's Traditional Courts Bill Criticized

    South African President Jacob Zuma pauses as he delivers a speech in Cape Town, South Africa, Aug. 31, 2012.
    South African President Jacob Zuma pauses as he delivers a speech in Cape Town, South Africa, Aug. 31, 2012.
    Anita Powell
    South Africa's government has proposed setting up a separate legal system for rural black citizens.  Supporters say the bill recognizes the importance of traditional customs and leadership, but critics say the proposal is too reminiscent of apartheid-era laws.

    Separate system

    The Traditional Courts Bill would set up a separate legal system for 17 million South Africans living in rural areas.  All of those affected by the system would be black, and most are poor.

    The bill is making its way through provincial governments after months of hearings in which locals voiced vigorous opposition.

    The bill's supporters say it will prevent conflict and maintain harmony in communities.  Traditional courts could also lift pressure from the overburdened court system and should provide quicker resolutions while respecting local customs.

    The bill is a reprise of the Black Administration Act 38 of 1927.  As the name suggests, that old law considered blacks second-class citizens and enforced that belief with legal muscle by putting them under the rule of traditional leaders.

    The new law, like the old one, would set up a court system ruled by traditional leaders and governed by traditional practices.

    Defendants in the traditional courts are not allowed to have lawyers.  Court leaders can sentence defendants to forced labor.  No one can opt out.

    Criticism

    “It is unconstitutional because it does not adequately protect the rights of women, and it does not allow people to choose whether or not they want to have their disputes to be resolved under traditional practices and rules, which under the constitution is something that people are entitled to," said Sindiso Mnisi Weeks of the University of Cape Town’s Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, explaining why she feels the bill is flawed.  "It does not permit people to be represented by lawyers if they so choose, and it generally contradicts even customary law, in terms of the fact that customary law is a participative process, it is a relatively inclusive process of dispute resolution.”

    She said the vast majority of traditional leaders are male.  During hearings on the bill, many women complained they were told they could not win their cases in traditional courts because it would encourage women to “be disrespectful.”

    “These courts, because they are typically made up of old men, tend not to be very sympathetic to the concerns of women and children," Weeks said.  "And in fact, in family disputes, they tend often find more in favor of men than of women.  And of course this is of real concern when it concerns matters such as domestic violence or women’s access to land and inheritance, etc., and marriage disputes.”

    Supporters

    Nghamula Nkuna of the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs says traditional leaders support the bill because it recognizes the valuable role they play in their communities.

    Traditional leaders hold great sway and respect.

    "In South Africa basically you have the institution of traditional leadership that has been here for centuries.  And if you talk about traditional communities in South Africa... traditional leadership is part of their evolvement, even often part of their diversity," explained Nkuna. " Various communities have got their ways and traditions which have survived and are recognized by constitutional dispensation.  Remember that traditional communities also have their way of dealing with disputes within their communities.”

    Mnisi Weeks said the population does not necessarily share this reverence.

    “The National Council of Provinces should acknowledge that after two rounds of consultations, which have yielded pretty definitive results as to how people feel about this bill and the problems that is has in it, the problems it will produce in rural communities, they should throw the bill out in its entirety and start afresh drafting a new piece of legislation based on the voices of ordinary rural people that will meet the needs that rural people have expressed,” she said.

    The bill has been languishing for months.  But recent events in South Africa may breathe new life into it.  President Jacob Zuma has taken a political hit after months of violent strikes.

    The ruling African National Congress is facing a critical party convention in December in which they will chose their leader for national elections.

    The ANC has swept every major election since 1994; their candidate will be heir apparent to the presidency.  But the party still needs voter turnout, especially in rural areas.  That elevates local chiefs to the role of kingmakers and that appears to be a major reason the party is pushing the traditinal courts legislation.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Damien1981 from: South Africa
    November 04, 2012 11:55 AM
    The ANC will push this bill trough, just like they've pushed every other bill through with total disregard of any intelligent advice.

    Liberation movements can't run democratic countries, because they need to keep the "struggle" alive to keep their voters from voting for another, more capable party.

    See what's really going on in Madiba's rainbow nation:

    http://www.thetruthaboutsouthafrica.com/

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora