Members of the Portfolio Committee on Local Government and Traditional Affairs will conduct public hearings on the controversial Traditional Courts Bill next week. The Democratic Alliance does not support this bill.
The apartheid government used South Africa’s traditional tribal institutions to entrench a philosophy of separateness. Hendrik Verwoerd famously asserted that they should take the system so far that no one in the future would ever be able to reverse it.
This Bill proposes the introduction of traditional courts, presided over by local chiefs or their delegated representatives. They will have the power to interpret the law as they see fit, hear evidence, call witnesses, and hand down judgment. They will effectively be law-maker, policeman, prosecutor, jury and judge at the same time.
It gives traditional leaders the power to sentence people to forced labour, cancel their land rights, expel them from the community, demand tribal levies, settle disputes and decide on any number of civil claims.
In a speech at the DA’s Eastern Cape Congress on 31 March 2012, party leader Helen Zille said: “And since traditional law is not adequately codified anywhere, an appeal process will be near impossible. In any case, which poverty-stricken rural person, particularly women, convicted under traditional law will have the courage or the means to lodge an appeal, if their future lies at the mercy of the Chief who handed down their sentence? I cannot think that the Bill is constitutional, but if it is passed in its current form, it will condemn millions of people, particularly women, to permanent subjugation in the equivalent of feudal fiefdoms. It will not only decimate their rights, but destroy this province’s prospects of development and progress”.
This Bill cannot be allowed in its current form. This is why the DA urges members of the public to attend these public hearings to support the party in its endeavour to halt this Bill. This is a new, democratic South Africa, where we support a Bill of Rights, freedom of association and freedom of speech.
The dates and venues for the public hearings are:
23 April – Queenstown Town Hall, 10h00
24 April – Mthatha Town Hall, 10h00
24 April – Lusikisiki College of Education, 10h00
26 April – Mdantsane indoor sports centre, 10h00